The University of Wisconsin Badgers played their usual brand of stifling defense and opportunistic offense to take care of the University of Minnesota tonight in Madison, downing the visiting Gophers 4-2.
Wisconsin controlled the style of play for nearly all of the game, forcing the Gophers to take outside shots and blocking many of their chances. The strategy showed itself in the final shot tally, as the Gophers only mustered 18 shots to Wisconsin's 32. The Gophers finally showed up in the third period, carrying the bulk of the play and giving themselves a chance to win in the final 10 minutes until Ben Street's goal at 18:08 of the third.
In goal for the Gophers was Junior Alex Kangas. Kangas gave up four goals - two of which were on the soft side - but all four were due to misplays by the Gopher forwards. The first Badger goal occurred because the Gophers couldn't clear the offensive zone, the second goal was due to a Patrick White fanned pass in his own defensive zone, and the third goal was due to a Tony Lucia bad pass. This Gopher team played a very sloppy game tonight, and were lucky that Alex Kangas played brilliantly enough other than the soft goals to keep them in the game.
To be fair, the Badgers did take advantage of lots of Gopher mistakes. If this team wants to be playing at Mariucci and the Xcel Energy Center come playoff time they really need to limit these miscues and start playing better hockey. I noticed the Gopher defensemen pinching in and leaving a Badger odd-man rush far too often. I know they're trying to create some more offense with Barriball out, but there's a time to push harder and there's a time to play smart, and it seemed like the Gophers were pushing a little too hard all game.
The Gophers got goals from Mike Hoeffel on a nice pass from Jordan Schroeder and a power play goal from Patrick White, who played a pretty good game apart from his miscue that resulted in the second Badger goal.
Three Gopher Stars of the Game:
3. Jordan Schroeder
Schroeder was all over the ice on the offensive end tonight, giving the Gophers tons of quality scoring chances that he either took himself or set up for his teammates. He had the first assist on the Hoeffel goal, but he needs someone else to step up on the team and start putting the puck in the net (or he needs to start doing that himself).
2. Aaron Ness
Ness again was brilliant, putting in a great effort on the defensive end and again finding himself in great situations on offense. This kid is a great passer and can skate around anyone else on the ice. He's got to start getting some confidence in his own shots - he often times passes when he has a wide open shot on the net.
1. Josh Birkholz
I really noticed Birkholz tonight. He was wreaking havoc in the Wisconsin zone and was a thorn in their side all game long. He might be the fastest player on this Gopher team, and, if he can find a little bit of a scoring touch, he'll be a menace on the ice for a long time coming.
Tomorrow's game against the Badgers faces off at 7:00 PM. Hopefully the Gophers will put forth a better effort than they did tonight.