The old adage is that when two rival teams play, you can throw their records out the window. Wisconsin proved that to be true at Minnesota this weekend.
The Gophers and Badgers skated to a 2-2 tie Friday at Mariucci Arena, and Minnesota won 3-1 Saturday.
The Gophers (4-2-2 WCHA) took three of four points for the second- straight weekend.
Missed opportunities hurt the home team in both games. Minnesota attempted 56 shots Saturday, and 28 were either blocked or missed the net.
But on Saturday, it did just enough to win. With the game tied six minutes into the third period, the puck found itself on the stick of an unlikely hero — Tom Serratore.
Erik Haula made a nice move to avoid a check near the blue and then snuck a pass to Serratore, who was coming off the bench. Serratore ripped a shot from the high slot to give the Gophers a lead they didn’t relinquish.
“It was great to see a guy that doesn’t score a lot score a big goal,” head coach Don Lucia said.
Nick Bjugstad missed on several shots, but with his squad down 1-0 in the second period, he launched one at the net that didn’t miss.
“My eyes got pretty big when I saw the puck — it was 2-on-1,” Bjugstad said. “[I] just let it rip, and thankfully it went in.”
Bjugstad handled a pass from Christian Isackson at center ice, raced into the zone and beat Joel Rumpel glove-side.
Wisconsin’s goal in the first period came on a shorthanded, odd-man rush — one of multiple rushes goaltender Adam Wilcox had to face while his team was on the power play.
Kyle Rau added an empty-net goal late in the third to give Minnesota the 3-1 victory.
Mariucci Arena had big crowds for both games, and Serratore said the energy in the building helped Saturday.
“It’s not hard to get up for games like these,” he said. “You’re big-time rivals, and it was great to get the win tonight — great atmosphere, and you couldn’t ask for a better game.”
Missed chances played a larger role in the Gophers’ 2-2 tie with the Badgers on Friday night.
Wisconsin took two questionable five-minute major penalties, one for checking from behind and one for checking to the head. The Gophers failed to convert on either power play.
“That was basically the game,” Haula said. “It was in our hands. I think we had our chances, but it’s all about executing.”
Minnesota gained the lead four minutes into the first period thanks to a hustle play by Nate Condon.
Condon, who’s 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 Wilcox 1-on-1 off a rebound to tie the game.
The Gophers regained the lead 48 seconds into the second period on the power play when Haula fired a wrist shot past Peterson.
Four minutes later, the Badgers forced a turnover in their offensive zone and executed a couple of nifty passes before one found Mersch backdoor for another goal.
“When we scored, [the Badgers] had good shifts after that,” Lucia said. “They had a good three- to four-minute surge after we went up 2-1.”
The Gophers continued to pepper Peterson in the third period and overtime, but he held his ground.
Minnesota’s power play had been on fire the past couple of weeks, but it cooled off considerably this weekend with a 1-for-10 performance.
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