MINNEAPOLIS— The Wisconsin men’s hockey team pulled into a first-place tie in the Big Ten with a 3-2 victory Friday night at Mariucci Arena over No. 4 Minnesota.
Despite surrendering a goal 28 seconds into the first period, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team showed their poise and resilience for the remaining 59:32.
Scoring three goals in the second period, the Badgers (18-10-1, 11-4-0-0 Big Ten) defeated Minnesota (20-9-2, 11-4-0-0) and kept themselves solidly in the race for the Big Ten title.
The Gophers came out strong to start the game, finding the back of the net in the opening minute as Vinni Lettieri banked a shot off of Jack Berry’s back from behind the goal line to make it 1-0.
“I don’t think he’s let the first shot in this season,” head coach Tony Granato said. “But it was huge for him to bounce back like that. He’s a competitor, to be able to put that one behind him, he settled in pretty fast.”
The Badgers did not find their first shot on goal until five minutes had elapsed, however Berry stood tall for the remainder of the period, keeping UW within one heading into the second period.
The middle frame is where Wisconsin turned it on, offensively, as Trent Frederic knotted the game at 1-1 just 3:42 into the period for his 15th goal of the season. The freshman finished off a 2-on-1 alongside Grant Besse, who fed Frederic the puck. Ryan Wagner earned his 17th helper on the year as well.
The Cardinal and White took the lead 3:40 later on a short-handed goal from Aidan Cavallini, his sixth tally of the year and second in as many games. The senior forward slammed home a rebound from Luke Kunin, who had begun the 2-on-1 opportunity.
UW struck again in the final minute of the period on a power-play goal from Wagner, who deflected a Jake Linhart shot from the point. The eventual game-winning goal gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead heading into the final period of play.
“They scored on the first shift of the game, and that’s a really tough way to start against a top team. As the (first) period went on, I thought we settled in and the second period, I thought we played pretty well,” Granato said.
Heading into the final period, Berry stopped 19 out of 20 shots he had faced.
The third stanza proved to be the strongest offensively for the Gophers, throwing 18 shots towards Berry, but the freshman goaltender was up to the task.
UM made it a one-goal game with just over eight minutes left in regulation on Lettieri’s second of the game and 17th of the year. Minnesota continued to push for a tying goal, but Berry continued to be a brick wall for the Badgers, not allowing any pucks to find twine.
“When you go on the road and play a top-five team, we knew they weren’t going to quit,” Granato said. “They knew what these points meant but we found a way to hold them off.”
Minnesota pulled their goalie with 2:24 left in the game but it was to no avail as Wisconsin was able to see out the remainder of the game, taking it 3-2.
Berry tied his career-high in saves with 36 on the evening.
Defenseman Peter Tischke also finished with 11 blocked shots in the game.
“We battled like crazy to keep it out of our net,” Granato said. “That team is a heck of a team. They didn’t stop, they kept coming and coming and with good goaltending and blocked shots and specialty teams, we were able to come up with a good road win.”
With the victory and three points in the bag, the Badgers pull even with the Gophers in first place in the conference standings with 33 points and five games remaining.