Taylor Matson's goal, assist help Gophers salvage split at Wisconsin
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Their first WCHA loss did not grow into a losing streak. One night after a disappointing setback in Madison, the Gopher hockey team bounced back, scoring a trio of goals in the third period to beat Wisconsin 4-1 and salvage a split in the two-game set.
After a disappointing loss on Friday, Gophers coach Don Lucia showed his team video on Saturday morning, pointing out clear instances of individual (rather than team) play, and noting key players and key lines that hadn't provided offense in some time.
"We went after some lines that hadn't scored in a while. One of them was (Taylor) Matson's, which hadn't done much for three weeks, and they responded," Lucia said afterward. "Taylor is our captain and gets a goal and an assist and we had some production from some guys where we hadn't in a while."
Matson set up the game's first goal and assisted on the game-winner. And Kent Patterson was brilliant again, facing just 14 shots but making two highlight reel saves in the second period that preserved a 1-1 tie and allowed for the Gophers' solid takeover of the game in the third.
"After the first two periods we had a lot of shots and we were pretty confident," Matson said. "We knew eventually we'd get to them and we did."
Interestingly, with the game still tied in the third, members of the Badger football team brought the Axe trophy that they'd maintained earlier in the day out onto the ice during a TV timeout, eliciting a thunderous ovation from Badger fans in the Kohl Center. The attempt to rile up the hockey team apparently failed, as the Gophers scored three straight after the Axe made its appearance.
The score was tied 1-1 in the second when the Badgers missed a golden opportunity to take the lead, misfiring with two white jerseys alone in front of Patterson. Just seconds later, Wisconsin's Michael Mersch leveled Kyle Rau along the boards and drew an iffy call for contact to the head. Mersch was tossed from the game, and the Gophers got a five-minute power play. While they did not score on the extended man-advantage, the Gophers captured momentum that they would not relinquish.
• 300: Wins by Don Lucia at Minnesota, making him just the second Gopher coach to win that many (Doug Woog was the first).
• 3: Number of points by which the Gophers lead the WCHA, keeping pace with second place Minnesota Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha, both of which won on Saturday.
Both teams emerged from the game healthy.
Gophers - Seth Helgeson 1 (Matson), 6:14
Badgers - Tyler Barnes 6 (Ramage, Zengerle), 16:24
Gophers - Taylor Matson 3 (Condon, Schmidt), 6:14
Gophers - Nick Bjugstad 9 (unassisted), 12:16
Gophers - Nate Condon 5 (unassisted), 15:26
Shots: Gophers 12-8-13-33; Badgers 4-5-5-14. Saves: Gophers, Kent Patterson (13-14); Badgers, Joel Rumpel (29-33). Power plays: Gophers 0-for-4, Badgers 0-3.
There's a road trip to be had next weekend as well, but it's a short one. The Gophers face St. Cloud State in a home-and-home series, playing in the home of the Huskies on Friday and Mariucci Arena on Saturday.