MINNEAPOLIS – It’s not too often that a coach considers his team outplayed in many ways despite a sizable victory.
Sometimes, though, when you take advantage of most of the chances you get, games like those happen.
And thanks to a wild third-period scoring barrage, another entertaining chapter of the Border Battle on ice has been written.
Six of the nine third-period goals belonged to Minnesota, and the Golden Gophers used that onslaught to race past the Wisconsin Badgers 9-4 on Friday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Don’t let that final score fool you, though. Minnesota (10-10-4, 7-5-3 Big Ten) let Wisconsin (8-11-4, 4-5-4-1) shrink their deficit to one goal twice in the final 20 minutes, and head coach Bob Motzko knew that his team had to sweat it out before the final flurry happened.
“We needed every one of [those goals],” Motzko said. “At seven, we started to breathe. At eight, we were good. That’s how crazy the game was.”
Jack Sadek got things started for Minnesota with a top-shelf goal from the right circle. Then after Wisconsin turned it over in the neutral zone on a power play, Tyler Sheehy pushed the Gophers’ lead to two with a shorthanded snipe from the top of the left circle. Rem Pitlick later added to the lead on a one-timer from the right circle on a power play, putting the Badgers in a three-goal deficit and forcing them to pull starting goaltender Jack Berry, who made just six saves. Daniel Lebedeff wasn’t much better, making 13 saves on 19 shots.
It’s a good thing they had that start, because an uneven second period allowed Wisconsin to hang around, and the Badgers got a late one-timer goal from Mick Messner to cut their deficit to 3-1.
It turned out the craziness was just beginning.
Wisconsin made it a one-goal game as Jack Gorniak threw one in off Minnesota goaltender Mat Robson’s left shoulder early in the third, but the Gophers countered with goals from Ryan Norman and Brannon McManus within a three-minute span.
Once again, though, the Badgers had an answer. Brock Caufield came in alone and beat Robson gloveside, then Seamus Malone added another less than two minutes later. In a matter of moments, the Minnesota lead over Wisconsin shrunk to 5-4, and the Badgers had a sizable SOG advantage over the Gophers and were forechecking hard.
Minnesota finally put the game away for good as Tommy Novak, Sammy Walker and Brent Gates scored in a span of 1:14 to make it a four-goal game, and Walker added his second one with 1:10 left to cap a wild third period for both teams.
It certainly wasn’t a pretty game, and Motzko credits his team for pouncing on just about every opportunity presented to them.
“We weren’t real good tonight,” he said. “We were opportunistic tonight. I know it’s hard to say that when you score nine goals. We needed every one of them.
“You get in some of those track meets every once in a while. Sometimes you just let it go.”
With that being said, Motzko doesn’t believe there will be quite that much craziness in the Saturday game.
“It’ll be a much cleaner, better hockey game tomorrow by both teams,” he said.
Robson made 42 saves for Minnesota, turning in yet another outstanding performance on the season.
The second game of the series is at 7:07 CT on Saturday night. Minnesota plans on honoring the 1979 national championship team during the game.
MINN goal at 7:20: Jack Sadek (3). Assisted by Sammy Walker (10) and Brent Gates (10).
MINN shorthanded goal at 10:21: Tyler Sheehy (7). Unassisted.
MINN power-play goal at 16:49: Rem Pitlick (13). Assisted by Tommy Novak (10) and Sheehy (15).
WISC goal at 14:04: Mick Messner (4). Assisted by Jarod Zirbel (2) and Max Zimmer (7).
WISC goal at 4:01: Jack Gorniak (3). Assisted by K’Andre Miller (14) and Seamus Malone (13).
MINN goal at 5:56: Ryan Norman (3). Assisted by Ryan Zuhlsdorf (4) and Jack Ramsey (1).
MINN goal at 8:50: Brannon McManus (10). Unassisted.
WISC goal at 10:43: Brock Caufield (6). Assisted by Miller (15) and Linus Weissbach (10).
WISC goal at 12:28: Malone (6). Assisted by Gorniak (7) and Will Johnson (5).
MINN power-play goal at 15:02: Novak (2). Assisted by Sheehy (16) and Gates (11).
MINN goal at 16:02: Walker (7). Assisted by McManus (5) and Blake McLaughlin (8).
MINN power-play goal at 16:16: Gates (9). Assisted by Pitlick (13) and Sheehy (17).
MINN goal at 18:50: Walker (8). Assisted by McManus (6) and McLaughlin (9).
Power plays: WISC 0-2, MINN 3-4.
Shots on goal: WISC 46, MINN 28.