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Minnesota’s Offense Returns in 5-4 Win Over Wisconsin

tommy novak minnesota (Matt Christians)
Tommy Novak had three assists in the victory
Matt Christians/SBN College Hockey

MINNEAPOLIS – Perhaps a bit overstuffed playing immediately after Thanksgiving, the 14th-ranked Badgers and 7th-ranked Gophers came into their key Big Ten hockey series on Friday night looking to put forgettable performances from last weekend behind them.

Minnesota was able to do just that, using a second-period onslaught of goals to help edge Wisconsin 5-4 at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

Five different Gopher players scored goals and ten had at least one point in the game; including Scott Reedy getting a goal and two assists as well as a three-assist night from Tommy Novak. It was a refreshing step up for the team after a lack of scoring against the conference-leading Fighting Irish.

“Hard-fought game,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, as his team won their 8th consecutive home game. “It wasn’t the prettiest at times, but it’s always pretty when you get three points, so we’ll take it and move on and get ready for tomorrow night.”

Jarod Zirbel, Tarek Baker, Sean Dhooghe and Trent Frederic scored for the Badgers and Wyatt Kalynuk and Ryan Wagner each had two assists. Wisconsin (3-3-1 B1G, 9-7-2 overall) was looking for a big bounceback after needing a rally last Sunday to salvage a home split with Mercyhurst, and while they were on the wrong side of the scoreboard in Minneapolis Friday, they did put 39 shots on net and scored four times. But the difference of the game was the second-period Minnesota scoring barrage, and Badgers head coach Tony Granato knows that momentum means a lot in this game.

"College hockey is lots of momentum changes and shifts in games," Granato said. "When the other team gets it, you've got to find a way to stop it."

While they did eventually slow the Gophers down, the hole was too deep for the Badgers to climb out of.

After scoring just twice in two losses at Notre Dame last weekend, Minnesota (4-4-1-1, 10-6-1) looked to start out strong on their home ice, but it was Wisconsin jumping out in front first on a 5-on-3 power play as Sean Dhooghe beat Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn stickside after missing an open net just seconds earlier.

Minnesota quickly responded however as Mike Szmatula, who had both goals last week in South Bend, had a perfect redirect of a Brent Gates shot to tie the game. It was the 100th career point for the senior forward and his 32nd as a Gopher.

“It was pretty special [reaching 100 career points],” Szmatula said. “It was kinda on my mind; I didn’t know I actually had 99 until [Gopher hockey public relations guy Brian Deutsch] told me, so I kinda wanted to get it. It’s just a tribute to all my teammates that I’ve had. I’m just thankful that my parents kept helping me out in the tough times, so that was for them.”

Just as it seemed Minnesota was about to claim the lead, Wisconsin promptly took it back late in the first as their 4th line charged into the Gophers zone and a juicy Jason Dhooghe rebound went right to Jarod Zirbel in front, who buried it for a 2-1 Badgers lead after one period.

“We had to play a little bit better,” Lucia said when asked what the message to the team was after the first period.

Things started to get wild in the second period, as the teams’ hatred for each other seemed to be in full effect-both took a pair of penalties and the chippiness seemed to continue from there. Meanwhile, Minnesota pulled away by scoring four times in a span of just under ten and a half minutes, getting tip-in goals from Tyler Sheehy and Rem Pitlick, a one-timer power play blast by Tyler Nanne and a goal by Scott Reedy, which finally chased Wisconsin goaltender Kyle Hayton from the game. Hayton made just 14 saves on 19 shots to take the loss.

Tarek Baker pulled Wisconsin back within striking distance near the end of the period as he put away a rebound of a Ryan Wagner shot near the end of the second period.

Trent Frederic connected on a power-play snipe from the slot with just under eight minutes left to cut the Gophers’ lead to one, but Wisconsin couldn’t get the late equalizer despite having a power play with four minutes left as well as an extra attacker for the final 1:54.

Schierhorn made 35 saves for Minnesota, earning his 10th victory of the season. Jack Berry came on in relief for Wisconsin after Hayton was pulled, stopping all nine shots he faced.

Just under a week after the Gophers football team was knocked out of bowl contention by Wisconsin 31-0 at nearby TCF Bank Stadium, the Border Battle hit the ice for the first time on the season Friday, and Reedy was pleased with how everything turned out, including the turnout of 8,301 fans who came to watch.

“Rivalry weekend, it’s a huge one for us,” Reedy said. “Fans showed up tonight; it was a great atmosphere out there and you could really feel the difference.”

The Badgers and Gophers will conclude their conference series at 7:07 PM on Saturday night. Wisconsin will try to avoid being swept for the first time this season while Minnesota will attempt to pick up their 4th sweep of the year.

Scoring summary:

First period:

WISC power-play goal at 7:14: Sean Dhooghe (3). Assisted by Linus Weissbach (8) and Wyatt Kalynuk (11).

MINN goal at 9:20: Mike Szmatula (5). Assisted by Brent Gates (4) and Scott Reedy (1).

WISC goal at 17:21: Jarod Zirbel (2). Assisted by Jason Dhooghe (1) and Jason Ford (3).

Second period:

MINN goal at 5:13: Tyler Sheehy (5). Assisted by Tommy Novak (13) and Joey Marooney (1).

MINN goal at 11:54: Rem Pitlick (8). Assisted by Casey Mittelstadt (10) and Reedy (2).

MINN PP goal at 15:19: Tyler Nanne (2). Assisted by Ryan Zuhlsdorf (7) and Novak (14).

MINN goal at 15:39: Reedy (3). Assisted by Zuhlsdorf (8) and Novak (15).

WISC goal at 17:09: Tarek Baker (7). Assisted by Ryan Wagner (8) and Jake Linhart (8).

Third period:

WISC goal at 12:16: Trent Frederic (7). Assisted by Wagner (9) and Wyatt Kalynuk (12).

Power plays: WISC 2-5, MINN 1-5.

Shots on goal: WISC 39, MINN 28.