It may not have been pretty at times, but the No. 12 Wisconsin men’s hockey team turned in the performance it needed for a 2-1 win over top-ranked Minnesota at the Kohl Center on Thursday night.
Despite being out-shot by Minnesota 32-19, Wisconsin was able to hand the Gophers their first loss in Big Ten play.
The host Badgers got on the board first as Frankie Simonelli greased one past Minnesota netminder Adam Wilcox at 14:47 of the first. The power play goal was Wisconsin’s 14th of the season.
Taylor Cammarata provided a prompt answer for the Gophers, lighting the lamp under three minutes later to knot the contest at one apiece heading into the first intermission.
The two teams skated to a scoreless draw in the second. Minnesota held a 15-10 edge in the shot department during that 20-minute span.
Wisconsin came up empty on a quality 3-on-1 chance in the opening moments of the third. The Gophers squandered a quality scoring chance a while later when they hit the post on what would have been the go ahead goal.
Jake McCabe found the back of the net with just over six minutes remaining in the game to give Wisconsin the lead once and for all.
The score was especially sweet for McCabe because it was his turnover which led to Minnesota’s goal in the first period.
“Actually after the first, I sit next to (Joel) Rumpel in the locker room and I said I owed him one. That’s definitely my faultcompletely. [Kyle Rau] beat me to the puck, turnover, bang, goal. Unacceptable,” McCabe said. “When I’m out there, me and Frank (Simonelli) especially, we want to be plus every night. We’re relied upon to be consistent defenders and to let Joel down like that, it’s never a good thing as much as he bails us out every game. I guess to get him one back actually felt good.”
With the win, the Badgers (15-8-2, 6-4-1 B1G) tallied their 14th win of the year at the Kohl Center, the second highest single-season total in the history of the building.
“I think just the biggest thing, we’ve been asked this question before, especially throughout our home stand, but I think when we come into this building every night we expect to win. When you have that kind of mojo, I guess, and you have that confidence it really goes a long way,” McCabe said. “We’ve gotten some good support from our fans this year, it’s definitely improving. We want to give back to them and we’re really playing for each other out there.”
Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel turned aside 31 of the 32 shots he faced. Rumpel has been between the pipes for 12 of the Badgers’ 15 wins this season.
The victory also keeps Wisconsin’s slim hopes for a regular season conference title alive for another night. The Badgers must top the Gophers tonight to remain in contention.
Regardless of how things shake out moving forward, UW head coach Mike Eaves knows the win was an important one.
“Well it’s against the number one team in the country, that’s going to mean a lot at the end of the year. So to hang our hat on, we’ll hang our hat on it because we beat the number one team in the country,” Eaves said. “But we know internally that we need to be better and we can be better. We’ve played way better this year.”
The Badgers and Gophers wrap up the series tonight at 8 p.m. in a game that can be seen on Big Ten Network.