After their 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the rival Wisconsin Badgers on Friday night, the Minnesota Gophers were looking to get off to a quick start and avoid digging themselves another big hole to start the game. Would the maroon and gold be able to get themselves off the mat and play a good game against a good team?
Saturday: 3-3 Tie
Saturday's game saw another lineup change in goal, as junior Kent Patterson spelled alternate captain Alex Kangas after an abysmal performance by the senior the night before that saw the Gophers give up six goals and score zero.
While the sting of a 6-0 defeat should have been enough to get the team motivated, it was Wisconsin that came out with energy and carried the play throughout the first few minutes of the game.
Wisconsin controlled the puck for the first four minutes of the game and generated several quality scoring chances. However, the momentum swung in the Gophers' direction as Taylor Matson deked Badger goalie Brett Bennett on a Gopher odd-man rush and deposited the puck in the back of the net, giving the Gophers a 1-0 lead just 4:18 into the game.
A Jacob Cepis power-play tally at 11:41 of the period gave the Gophers a big separation goal and a 2-0 lead just half a period into the game. Wisconsin came roaring back with a power-play goal of their own with just over two minutes remaining in the first, and the Badgers headed into intermission down 2-1 but very much in the game.
The second period opened with a quick strike from Wisconsin's Jordy Murray. The man-advantage goal evened the score at two goals apiece just 3:39 into the period.
The next 15 minutes of the second period were evenly matched, as both teams attempted to re-establish their game plans in what became essentially a 30-minute game. There would not be another goal until 18:47 of the period, when Jay Barriball took a Cade Fairchild pass from the high slot and fired a slap shot that beat goalie Brett Bennett to give the Gophers a 3-2 lead, which they held onto until the period expired.
The Gophers came out firing in the third period, generating several two-on-one chances and creating sustained pressure for the first five minutes of the period. However, Bennett stood tall and kept his team in the game, refusing to allow any goals to the Gopher attack.
After the Gopher attack settled down, the game once again reverted to more of a "wait and see" mode. Wisconsin was content with playing solid defense and waiting to take their chances when they occurred.
Finally, at 17:06 of the period, Jordy Murray scrummed the puck behind the Gopher net and it somehow squirted out and past Kent Patterson for a Wisconsin game-tying goal. Patterson was visibly upset with the ruling, believing that he had covered the puck long enough to merit a whistle. After review, though, the goal stood and the game was tied at three.
Both teams battled hard but the game headed into overtime.
Wisconsin was the better team in the extra period, finding themselves on the receiving end of numerous grade-A chances. Gopher goalie Patterson made the key stops, though, and Brett Bennett made saves on the two Gopher scoring chances to preserve the tie.
Gopher Player of the Game
I liked the effort I saw out of Kent Patterson in this game. The Gopher netminder was rock solid between the pipes in the first several minutes of the game when Wisconsin came out hot.
After that, Patterson didn't have to make all that many big saves in regulation, but Wisconsin was out for blood in overtime and Patterson kept the puck out of the net when he absolutely needed to.
Good performance from the goalkeeper, who is now 4-0-1 in his five starts at goalie. This team will only go so far as defense can take them, and they need a goaltender who can keep them in the game. Over the first bit of the season, Patterson has been that guy.
I see this as a setback for the Gophers. Coming off of a big weekend in Colorado Springs that could have been a turning point, the team lost and tied at home to a Wisconsin team that has just as many question marks as Minnesota.
One thing I noticed, though, is that nearly all of Wisconsin's goals were created by the Badger players driving to the net. The Gophers have very few players capable and willing to do that, and one of them (Zach Budish) is now out for the season.
The Gophers need to get grittier and need to be OK with getting their noses dirty if they want to score goals in the WCHA. They need to find a couple more guys that are willing to do the dirty work if they want to count themselves as one of the upper-echelon programs in the country again.