Though they couldn’t execute the series sweep over the top-ranked Golden Gophers, the No. 12 University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (6-6, 6-4 Big Ten) put up a gruesome battle against No. 1 Minnesota (11-1, 9-1) and handed them their first loss of the season in the first of two games last weekend.
The Gophers traveled to Madison Friday only for the Badgers to snap their 10-game win streak. Badger goalie Robbie Beydoun, who returned to the ice for the first time since the December hiatus, ended their first matchup with 35 saves.
“It was a very fun game,” Beydoun said in a post-game press conference. “We have a lot of Minnesota guys on our team that really want to beat these guys. It was kind of funny this week, all our Minnesota guys were saying, ‘screw Minnesota.’”
Beydoun started out strong in the first two periods, combining for a total of 19 stops while keeping the Gophers scoreless. Though he let up a shot from former Badger recruit Sampo Ranta, Beydoun made 17 stops in the third period and kept the Gophers’ aggressive offense from penetrating the crease.
Wisconsin fiercely took down the Gophers 3–1 with goals from Tarek Baker, Owen Lindmark and Linus Weissbach, who tied team leader Cole Caufield with his sixth goal of the season.
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Sunday’s matchup with the Gophers didn’t go as smoothly for the Badgers.
Minnesota retaliated the loss early and got on the board less than two minutes into the first period. Dylan Holloway, coming off earning a silver medal in the World Junior Championships for Team Canada, mishandled a pass to allow the Gophers to execute on an odd-man rush. Sam Stange tied it up later in the first with a shot that deflected off of a Gopher defenseman’s stick and trickled into the net.
Brock Caufield brought the Badgers their first lead of the night in the second period 2–1, but Wisconsin’s poor line changes allowed Minnesota forwards Blake McLaughlin and Jonny Sorenson to take back the lead for the Gophers 3–2.
The third period slowly shriveled the Badgers’ chances at executing the sweep. Gophers forward Blake Meyers opened the period by ringing a shot off the crossbar on a power play to further extend their lead 4–2.
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It was the final minutes of the third period that extinguished all hope for the Badgers. Another sloppy line change caused Minnesota forward Bryce Brodzinski to plant one behind the net, and put the Gophers up 5–3 with only three minutes remaining.
“I think we played really well for most of the game,” Badgers defenseman Tyler Inamoto said after the game. “It’s just dumb mistakes that cost us.”
The Badgers, fresh off a tough loss to their rivals, felt strongly about their performance over the weekend, and also acknowledged the several mistakes and issues that need to be corrected before they face the Gophers again in early February.
Wisconsin will face Arizona State for their next series in LaBahn Arena, starting Friday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.