Seth Ambroz (Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick) wanted a pretty goal after Friday afternoon's win. He didn't get one Saturday, but scoring the game-winning goal with 26 seconds left is a pretty good consolation
Ambroz scored twice Saturday - and four times total on the weekend - as #1 Minnesota (11-2-1, 2-0-0-0 Big Ten) defeated #12/13 Wisconsin 4-3 in front of 9,973 fans at Mariucci Arena to sweep the Badgers in the first-ever Big Ten conference series for both teams.
Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) and Brady Skjei (New York Rangers) also recorded goals for the Gophers. Joel Rumpel made 31 saves for Wisconsin (4-5-1, 0-2-0-0 Big Ten), who led twice and came back from a 3-2 deficit in the third to tie game against its border rivals to the west.
"I think we played a very tough team pretty well," Badgers head coach Mike Eaves said. "It was 2-1 with ten minutes to go last night. It was 3-3 here with less than 30 seconds. We said to the boys inside (the locker room) that when you get this close and don't win it hurts."
Frankie Simonelli got Wisconsin on the board first 4:23 into Saturday's game with a lazer shot from the left circle. The senior defenseman made a heads-up play for his second goal. He skated to join senior forwards Michael Mersch (Los Angeles Kings) and Mark Zengerle to create an odd-man rush after Connor Reilly could not control a pass in the Wisconsin zone.
The Gophers have made it a pattern recently of giving up the first goal. Today was the fifth time in six games Minnesota trailed 1-0. While Rau said that "(the Gophers) have to start coming out better," he was able to tie the game at 1 with his third goal of the season 45 seconds later.
"I was in the wrong spot and not supposed to be there, but it worked out," he added.
Still, Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim Ducks) capped off a great shift to make it 2-1 Wisconsin with 5:40 remaining in the first period. The sophomore sensation was left alone after a Minnesota turnover and easily beat Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning) for his fifth goal of the season.
The Badgers continued to have the upper hand for the rest of the first and most of the second period. Minnesota had two power plays yet couldn't do much to sustain offense. It wasn't until Ambroz tied the game with 2:09 remaining in the second followed by Brady Skjei unleashing a slap shot that beat Rumpel 3:44 into the third that Minnesota was in control; let along having the first lead of the afternoon Saturday.
For Gophers head coach Don Lucia, Saturday was a great learning experience for his six freshmen in the lineup going against a veteran Wisconsin team picked in the preseason to finish first in the Big Ten.
"You have to stay with games. You're not always going to be in control when you're playing good teams," he said. "There's going to be periods when they have you on your heels and you have to fight back for different segments of the game."
However, it was Lucia's upperclassmen that came through on the big stage. Minnesota's third line features two juniors and a senior in Tom Serratore. It was that line, which started the game and was put out after Wisconsin - who had tied the game at 3 when Mersch tipped a Kerdiles shot for his 6th goal - called timeout with 6:26 remaining, that gave the Gophers a spark.
And when Ambroz put a rebound past Rumpel with 26 seconds left for the first home sweep of Wisconsin since 2006, he lit the building on fire.
"I was a little surprised," Ambroz said about his goal. "There were just skating out and obviously the turnover happened so I just went straight to the net."
But it wasn't pretty.
"I don't think it qualifies," he admitted.
Minnesota travels to Michigan State next weekend. Friday's game starts at 7:00 p.m. ET and airs on Fox Sports North Plus. Saturday's game begins at 4:00 p.m. ET and airs on Fox Sports North. Wisconsin, meanwhile, hosts Penn State for the Badgers' first-ever Big Ten home series Friday (7:00 p.m. CT) and Saturday (8:00 p.m. CT).
WISCONSIN - Frankie Simonelli (2) (Michael Mersch, Mark Zengerle 4:23)
MINNESOTA - Kyle Rau (3) (Sam Warning 5:08)
WISCONSIN - Nic Kerdiles (5) (Morgan Zulinick, Joe Faust 14:39)
MINNESOTA - Seth Ambroz (6) (Tom Serratore 17:51)
MINNESOTA - Brady Skjei (2) (Justin Holl, Rau 3:44)
WISCONSIN - Michael Mersch (6) (Kerdiles, Jake McCabe 10:37)
MINNESOTA - Seth Ambroz (7) (Travis Boyd 19:34)
Wisconsin 9 - 9 - 5 -- 23
Minnesota 9 - 11 - 15 -- 35
Three Stars: 3 Stars: 1) Seth Ambroz (2G) (Minnesota) 2) Kyle Rau (1G-1A) (Minnesota) 3) Nic Kerdiles (1G-1A) (Wisconsin)
-Taylor Cammarata (lower body injury) missed his second consecutive game. Coach Lucia said that he would be evaluated during the week. Defenseman Jake Bischoff, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch in both games but will be in the lineup against Michigan State.
-Mike Eaves on Wisconsin: "If you want some answers, talk to the guy who can talk to you guys," meaning the ref.
-Minnesota junior Kyle Rau is one point short of 100 career points after a goal and an assist tonight.
-3 of Ambroz's 4 multi-goal games have come against Wisconsin.
-Rau on Minnesota's third line: "They're some studs on that line. It's not like they're a third line. They could be a first line for other teams. They play big"
- Big Ten Hockey: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin Saturday line combinations
- Red Hot Hockey Preview: Boston University vs. Cornell at Madison Square Garden
- College Hockey Roundup: Friday Night's Top Performers
- Big Ten Hockey: Minnesota defeats Wisconsin 4-1 for first-ever B1G win
- Michigan 4 Ohio State 3 (OT): Friday Night's Final Scoring and Notes
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate