Wisconsin’s men’s hockey team was supposed to have a down year, but it hardly showed it Friday when it met rival Minnesota at Mariucci Arena.
The Gophers and Badgers battled throughout the game, which ended in a 2-2 tie.
Minnesota amassed a mountain of chances and had 19 more shots than the Badgers. Both Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau had shots ring off the pipe.
“We hit a couple pipes, but that’s all part of it,” Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. “You’ve just got to keep battling through that.”
Wisconsin also took two major penalties, each of which resulted in five-minute majors for the Gophers.
“That was basically the game,” Erik Haula said. “It was in our hands. I think we had our chances, but it’s all about executing.”
Minnesota gained the lead at the 3:49 mark of the first period thanks to a hustle play by Nate Condon.
Condon, who is widely regarded to as the team’s fastest skater, hustled to beat an icing call before eluding a Badgers skater and finding Zach Budish on a pass from behind the goal line.
Budish beat Wisconsin goaltender Landon Peterson blocker-side for the goal.
Budish has bounced between the first and second lines all season and looked to have good chemistry with Condon and fellow linemate Haula early.
“I thought Zach had his best game he’s had in a while,” Lucia said.
Wisconsin answered seconds later with its own handsome play from behind the net. Michael Mersch beat Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox one-on-one off a rebound to tie the game.
Early in the second period, the Gophers used their power play to regain the lead quickly. Haula scored on a wrist shot 10 seconds into a power play that started 37 seconds into the period.
Four minutes later, the Badgers forced a turnover in their own offensive zone and executed a couple of nifty passes before one found Mersch backdoor for another goal.
“When we scored, they had good shifts after that,” Lucia said. “They had a good three- to four-minute surge after we went up 2-1.”
The two teams entered the third period tied at 2-2. Peterson held his ground the rest of the way and finished with 41 saves.
The Gophers and Badgers will conclude their weekend series Saturday at Mariucci Arena.