Badgers men’s hockey team loses composure in demoralizing loss to Golden Gophers
MINNEAPOLIS — The volume of goals allowed and the margin of defeat against their archrival will open some eyes from followers of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team.
To the Badgers, the stripping away of almost every layer of the team’s composure over the final five minutes of a 9-4 loss to Minnesota on Friday was the shocking element.
The Golden Gophers scored four times in the last handful of minutes at 3M Arena at Mariucci, with two of the goals resulting in a Badgers player smashing his stick over the goalpost.
The final blow was struck by sophomore center Tarek Baker, who broke his stick in two after the Badgers left goaltender Daniel Lebedeff to fend for himself on Sammy Walker’s second goal of the late barrage.
“It’s just unacceptable,” Baker said of his moment of snapping. “It’s immature. It’s childish. For a program that gives us all this stuff, to show poor class like that, it’s unacceptable.”
Baker, who was minus-5 for the game, was hard on himself afterward. But he was hardly the only culprit on a team that showed the signs of frustration with a winless streak that extended to five games (0-4-1).
It all ended up terribly ugly for the Badgers. Special teams was a bust, with three power-play goals and a short-handed strike allowed. Lebedeff and Jack Berry, who started the game, combined to save only 19 of 28 Gophers shots on goal.
It was only the third time in the 2000s that UW has allowed nine goals in a game, and it came as a result of a six-goal third period for Minnesota that represented the most scores UW has allowed in a period in at least 20 seasons.
The finish will stick in the Badgers’ craw because of how they snapped but also how close they came to tying the game before things went off the rails.
Brock Caufield and Seamus Malone scored 1:45 apart in the third period to cut the Badgers’ deficit to 5-4. But UW got caught with too many men on the ice, and Minnesota’s Tommy Novak scored on the resulting power play.
A minute later, Walker scored his first goal of the night off a deflected centering pass. UW’s Linus Weissbach bashed his stick over the post but also clipped Walker, drawing a penalty.
The Gophers’ Brent Gates Jr. cashed in 14 seconds later — making Minnesota 3-for-4 on the power play — and it was 8-4 thanks to three goals in 74 seconds.
“I’m not happy with it,” UW coach Tony Granato said. “We lost our composure and did some things that were unacceptable. We addressed it, and it won’t happen again.”
What specifically was unacceptable? “Lots of things,” Granato said.
Slamming sticks over the net? “That’d be one of them,” he responded shortly.
The Badgers owned a 46-28 advantage in shots on goal and attempted 30 more shots than their opponent but again ended up short in the key moments.
“For 55 minutes, we played a good hockey game,” Granato said. “But you can’t play a 55-minute game. Their team is a team that, when they see weakness or when you back up or you get on your heels, they’re able to take advantage of it. It’s very clear that’s what happened. Every time we let off the gas, they made a play and pulled away from us.”
The Badgers (8-11-4, 4-5-4-1 Big Ten Conference) twice cut a three-goal Minnesota lead to one, the first after a calamitous start to the game by Berry. He allowed goals on three of the first nine shots the Gophers (10-10-4, 7-5-3) put on him, with efforts by Jack Sadek and Tyler Sheehy hitting the iron before going in.
UW’s Mick Messner scored on a one-timer in the second period, and Jack Gorniak slotted home the first of nine third-period goals combined to make it 3-2.
Two unfortunate bounces for the Badgers, however, quickly restored the Gophers’ two-goal lead. The first was a Ryan Zuhlsdorf shot that deflected off UW defenseman Ty Emberson’s stick and off the left post, where Ryan Norman tapped it in.
Less than three minutes later, Minnesota made it 5-2 when Brannon McManus’ pass from behind the net ticked off the back of Badgers right wing Sean Dhooghe’s skate and redirected behind Lebedeff. Dhooghe finished the game minus-6, while linemates Baker and Roman Ahcan were minus-5.
Berry got the start because of the neck wound that Lebedeff suffered a week earlier via a Notre Dame player’s stick. Lebedeff was well enough to dress and, ultimately, play the final 42:25.
“I don’t really know what to say on that one,” Berry said of his outing. “It is frustrating. You’ve got to give your team a chance to win, and if you go down 3-0 like that in the first period, it’s tough to come back. ... A save’s got to be made.”
Wisconsin 0 1 3 — 4
Minnesota 3 0 6 — 9
First period: M — Sadek 3 (Walker, Gates), 7:20; Sheehy 7, 10:21 (sh); Pitlick 13 (Novak, Sheehy), 16:49. Penalties: Sheehy, M, 3:28; Miller, W, 7:49; Bench, M, 9:03; Ahcan, W, 16:00.
Second period: W — Messner 4 (Zirbel, Zimmer), 14:04.
Third period: W — Gorniak 3 (Miller, Malone), 4:01. M — Norman 3 (Zuhlsdorf, Ramsey), 5:56; McManus 10, 8:50. W — Caufield 6 (Miller, Weissbach), 10:43; Malone 6 (Gorniak, Johnson), 12:28. M — Novak 2 (Sheehy, Gates), 15:02 (pp); Walker 7 (McManus, McLaughlin), 16:02; Gates 9 (Pitlick, Sheehy), 16:16 (pp); Walker 8 (McManus, McLaughlin), 18:50. Penalties: Bench, W, 13:42; Weissbach, W, 16:02.
Saves: W (Berry 6-x-x, Lebedeff 0-4-9) 19; M (Robson 17-9-16) 42. Power plays: W 0-for-2; M 3-for-4. Att. — 8,264.