MINNEAPOLIS- Much to the relief of the Golden Gophers, the goals and three point Big Ten performance it was clearly looking for came on Hockey Day Minnesota.
Less than 24 hours after a frustrated Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, his team having out-shot Wisconsin 49-20 in a 2-2 tie, stressed the importance of his snakebitten team getting shot attempts on Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel, the words paid off in the series finale.
Saturday it was the Badgers showing visible frustration to the home team's patience, giving up a season-high 50 shots and ending the game with several late brawls between the border state rivals. The Gophers scored three goals in the first period and found life fighting for one another late en route to a physical 5-2 victory at Mariucci Arena.
Travis Boyd lit the lamp twice on a night where the senior class scored four goals. Junior goaltender Adam Wilcox made 24 saves for the Gophers, which stretched an undefeated HDM streak to five.
"We needed one," said head coach Don Lucia about getting a win. "Even last night I thought we played well other than a couple instances and it ended up costing us. Tonight we got rewarded with some goals and that really was the difference."
Plymouth, MN native and 2013 Mr. Hockey Award winner Grant Besse scored both goals for Wisconsin (2-12-3, 0-3-1-1 Big Ten). White Bear Lake, MN native Kevin Schulze, meanwhile, hit a pair of posts Saturday, including on a penalty shot 3:43 into the second period.
Minnesota (11-7-2, 2-2-2-0 Big Ten) once again got off to a dominating start against the Badgers, out-shooting the Big Ten rivals 10-2 over the first 8 minutes yet finished the chances near the net this time.
Boyd kicked off the scoring 4:30 into Saturday on the power play when he shot a Connor Reilly rebound into the back of the net. He then set up new linemate Sam Warning, who took an extra second in front of the net before scoring, for Warning's second of the weekend.
Boyd got his second of the game with 2:59 left in the opening frame crashing the net. Boyd's 9th goal of the year was initially ruled a no goal before being overturned with video review.
"I'm not a captain, but being a senior you have to step up and be a leader. I thought all together the senior class had a good game tonight," he said a game after calling the effort "embarrassing." "Christian Isackson had a goal, Sam played well, Kyle (Rau) always brings it and (Seth) Ambroz was good too. I think overall as a senior class we all had good games tonight and that's part of the reason we had such a good result."
Gopher leading goal scorer Connor Reilly made it 4-0 1:56 into the 2nd period when he one-timed a Justin Kloos pass past Rumpel, who made 45 saves a night after making 47. Isackson got his first of the season 6 minutes later much to the approval of the season-high 10,384 fans in attendance.
"It just shows that we're not ready, we're not where we want to be, that we're not ready for primetime yet," Badgers head coach Mike Eaves said. "We made the analogy that with a young team they are much like puppies in a box. They always want to get out. When they do something good you want to scratch them by the ear. The next thing you know they're crapping on your carpet.
"We crapped on the carpet tonight."
Besse broke the shutout late in the second with a third effort that trickled past Wilcox. The sophomore forward added his second late on a 5 on 3 power play to finish his homecoming weekend with 3 goals and a shootout winner.
His last one was overshadowed, however, by the penalties and multiple scraps. 90 third period penalty minutes ended with Minnesota's Mike Reilly called for a game misconduct and Wisconsin's Eddie Wittchow a game disqualification after the latter hit Leon Bristedt and Reilly stood up for his teammate.
The Game DQ means Wittchow will automatically sit out Friday's home game against Michigan.
"It surprised me because there wasn't a lot going on in the first half of the third period. It's really disappointing to put ourselves down 5 on 3," Lucia said.
Wisconsin sophomore Jedd Soleway's visible frustration entering the penalty box, hitting the glass with his stick, late in the second period served as a precursor. The third period turned chippy late to the point where Minnesota had six players in the box.
"I was laughing so hard on the bench," said Connor Reilly. "I'm just sitting there and I was joking with, I think Ambroz or Rau, ‘can you scoot over a little bit? I need some more room.'
"It was the most room I've had all year. So that was a hilarious sight to see."
Hilarious or not (Ed. Note: it was), Reilly said it was important for the team to stick up for one another because it shows that they care entering a weekend where the Gophers face #1 Minnesota State and try to defend the North Star College Cup at Xcel Energy Center.
Whether or not that is more important than breaking through with five goals while controlling possession and shots is hard to say though the combination of the two.
At the very least the first one could arise again in Madison. Wisconsin will be awaiting the Gophers again in two weeks for round number 2.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate