MINNEAPOLIS- Justin Kloos summed up the Gophers' night, and all of 2015, for the wrong reasons. The sophomore had so many good chances with none that slipped past Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel.
With the way things are going for Don Lucia's club, the points and opportunities are slipping away too.
Friday night's game was a dominant performance by Minnesota through the first period, but like so many recent performances ended in disappointment, frustration and anger. The Gophers, out-shooting a two win Wisconsin team by a 49-20 advantage, blew a 2-0 third period lead when Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway scored 1:57 apart to force a 2-2 tie at Mariucci Arena in front of an announced crowd of 10,263. (Wisconsin won a shootout 2-1 for the extra Big Ten conference point.)
"It's a tie and we lost a point," a frustrated Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. "I'm disappointed we lost two points quite frankly."
Rumpel made 47 saves while Besse, who had several close chances, a deke on Mike Reilly and a first period crossbar, nearly won it for Wisconsin by himself.
Perhaps it was fitting then that the 2013 Mr. Hockey Award winner, given the Wisconsin (2-12-3, 0-2-1-1 Big Ten) Hard Hat for player of the game, scored the winning shootout goal to cap off his night.
"A lot can be learned from this game," said Badgers head coach Mike Eaves about his young team, who were 5 for 5 killing penalties against the top power play in the nation. "We're not kidding ourselves. We need to get better in a lot of areas, but when you win the frame of mind is different and you move forward."
Armed with four new completely retooled forward lines Minnesota (10-7-2, 1-2-2-0 Big Ten) dominated the opening frame from the first shift onward by getting the first 18 shots on goal and out-shooting the Badgers 20-3. Kloos, centering a line between Kyle Rau and Connor Reilly, nearly set up a Rau goal on his first shift 57 seconds into the game. However, it was waved off due to goalie interference.
Sam Warning gave Minnesota the lead, erasing some demons of his own with his first even-strength goal since November 28th. New linemate Travis Boyd caused a turnover and found the senior wide open in the slot 8:14 into the game for his sixth goal of the year and a celebratory jump into Boyd's arms.
"It was good. Warning and Fasching are both great players," said Boyd. "So it's fun to play with them out there, to work with them and create with them. I thought we had a lot of good chances.
"For the first actual game we played together I thought we played pretty well."
By the end of the night the celebration was the only shot that beat Rumpel off of someone's stick, one that seems to have come from a different game.
Wisconsin's first shot came among Bronx cheers more than 15 minutes into the game. The Badgers, with 8 freshmen playing for the first time at Mariucci Arena, slowly adjusted. Behind them was Rumpel, who stopped several point-blank chances in the slot while being left out to dry.
"He has got a really young team in front of him," Eaves said about Rumpel. "Last year when he had the good numbers he was the first who said the guys in front of him were playing in front of him, blocking shots and clearing pucks. He's settled in here since we've come back. He's not trying as hard to be perfect."
It wasn't just Rumpel. Freshman defenseman Jack Dougherty blocked Kloos' attempt to finish a tic-tac-toe play early in the second and the Gophers had fewer and fewer quality chances as the game continued. More plays had extra passes. More shots ended up going off Rumpel's chest.
Fewer rebounds were available.
Hudson Fasching gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead 6:51 into the third on a delayed penalty. Minnesota was unable to cash in on the power play - including 1:41 at a two-man advantage - and began its downfall.
Besse's goal cut the lead in half on a 2x1 caused by a bad line change. Less than 2 minutes later Jedd Soleway tied the game going the other way to shock the home crowd.
"My disappointment was the errors, not sustaining the mental part of it," Lucia said. "I thought physically we were good. We had good energy. We moved the puck. When you look at attempted shots it was 90-something to 30-something (ed. Note 91-37)."
Fittingly Kloos had Minnesota's best chance a minute in overtime. He shot low in the slot, but once again the senior goalie for Wisconsin stood tall.
A tie or not, it didn't feel like one to the Gophers, who have won three of the last 11 games and are losing ground in both the Big Ten conference race and an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Besse was upbeat with Wisconsin's third consecutive weekend standing with a top opponent, saying in front of a "W" the Badgers put over Minnesota's visitor locker room logo, "the past three teams we've played have been ranked number one at some point this year. It feels good and we're showing that we're showing that we're improving."
On the other side of Wisconsin's new beginning was Boyd, summing the second consecutive Friday night (and fourth consecutive that Minnesota has scored first only to find itself tied) where a third period lead was blown and points were lost. Although he may not have had the chances Kloos did, it didn't matter.
"Quite frankly it's kind of embarrassing," he said. "These are points we need to have."
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate