On the night the Gophers honored their 1979 NCAA hockey champions during the team’s 40th anniversary celebration, a bitter rival spoiled the party.
Wisconsin’s Peter Tischke scored a tiebreaking goal 4 minutes, 2 seconds into the third period, and the Badgers held on to defeat the Gophers 4-3 on Saturday night at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Three power-play goals by the Gophers proved to be not enough as Wisconsin salvaged a series split after Minnesota won 9-4 in Friday’s opener.
Anthony Souffle, TNS – TNS
Bill Baker, left, captain of the 1979 Gophers men’s hockey team, laughs along with teammates honored on the ice Saturday
In a festive evening that included an arena-record crowd of 10,686, the Gophers and Badgers played a spirited and at times ornery game that featured 10 penalties, seven by Wisconsin. But Minnesota couldn’t get the equalizing goal in the third period and lost for the third time in four games.
“The roof was going to come off if we scored in the third,’’ Gophers coach Bob Motzko said of the crowd, which topped the record of 10,587, set in 2004 against Wisconsin. “We left them hanging.’’
Rem Pitlick scored two power-play goals and Brent Gates Jr. one as the Gophers (10-11-4, 7-6-3 Big Ten) went 3-for-5 with the man advantage. But Wisconsin (9-11-4, 5-5-4-1), which entered with the 58th-ranked penalty kill (79.2 percent) among the nation’s 60 Division I teams, weathered two Minnesota power plays in the third period.
Linus Weissbach and Dominick Mersch each had a goal and an assist, and Mick Messner also scored for Wisconsin. Goalie Daniel Lebedeff made 29 saves.
Tyler Sheehy had three assists and Brannon McManus two for the Gophers, who got 28 saves from Mat Robson. The Gophers were without freshman forward Sammy Walker, who had two goals Friday night. Motzko didn’t disclose why Walker didn’t play but said it was not disciplinary.
“We had some guys who had great games tonight,’’ Motzko said. “The game was going to be what we thought. It was going to be toe-to-toe.’’
That was the case from the start. Pitlick, who has seven goals in the past seven games, gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead at 11:49 of the first on a power play.
The Badgers tied it 1-1 at 3:15 of the second when Robson made a save on Mersch but lost track of the puck. It trickled behind Robson, who swept it out of the goal with his right pad, but a video review overturned the no-goal call on the ice.
After Wisconsin took 2-1 lead at 6:10 of second, the Gophers tied it on a power-play goal by Gates at 7:41. Minnesota made it 3-for-3 on the power play on a nice tic-tac-toe play for Pitlick’s second goal at 9:58. Sheehy passed to McManus on the left side of the net, and McManus found Pitlick charging in from the right. The Gophers threatened to make it 4-2, but both Pitlick and Tommy Novak hit a pipe with shots.
“We’ve got to do a better job five-on-five,’’ Sheehy said. “We can’t have all our goals on the power play.’’
Messner tied it at 3-3 with 5:11 left in the second, and the Badgers got the two key penalty kills in the first 8:02 of the third. Wisconsin was strong with the puck in the final two minutes, with Robson not being able to get off the ice for an extra attacker until 20 seconds remained.
“A lot of good things happened out there tonight,’’ Motzko said, “except for the final score.’’