MADISON, Wis. -- Losing to your arch-rival always hurts. But when a Minnesotan fires the winning puck for your neighbors from the east, it’s doubly painful for the Gophers.
Such was the cruel hand of fate on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Kohl Center, where the Gophers fell 3-1 to Wisconsin after Lakeville native Josh Ess blasted the decisive goal for the Badgers near the halfway mark of the third period.
The Gophers (2-4-1 overall, 1-1-0-0 Big Ten) took an early lead on a Brannon McManus goal, but were lacking puck luck on a night where their shots clanked the net’s crossbar on more than one occasion. Jack Gorniak added an empty-net goal with 23.2 seconds left as the Badgers got their first conference win.
“It means a lot, being from Minnesota and growing up watching them play,” Ess said. “To come here and play against them is awesome, and it’s nice to get a win against these guys.”
Eric Schierhorn made his second start of the season in goal for Minnesota, turning aside 29 shots in the loss. With the game tied 1-1 and the teams trading scoring opportunities in a wide-open third period, Ess fired a puck from the blue line that made its way through a crowd in front of the Gopher net, deflecting off the left post and landing behind Schierhorn.
That Gophers captain Tyler Sheehy put a hard shot off the crossbar a few shifts later on a shorthanded opportunity seemed indicative of the team’s fortunes, or lack thereof, all night.
“I have no issues with how we came and played or our intensity tonight. We did make plays, we just couldn’t get them behind,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “The only criticism is we did miss the net a lot. We had more opportunities and better opportunities we could’ve made...If that’s what we have to improve on, it’s a fun thing to work on.”
The game featured a puck out of play that ended up in the Badgers net, a lengthy video review to determine it was no goal, a referee injured when he inadvertently collided with Gophers forward Sampo Ranta, and three high-quality scoring chances by the visiting team. And that was just in the first five minutes.
Minnesota took the early lead when Badgers center Dominick Mersch was ejected for checking Sheehy from behind. The Gophers got just two shots on the ensuing five-minute power play, but one of them was a blast from McManus that deflected off a Badger and into the upper left corner of the net.
The Badgers knotted the score on their first power play of the game when Sean Dhooghe blocked Schierhorn’s view of a long shot by Wyatt Kalynuk, then tipped the puck past the goalie for a 1-1 draw after 20 minutes. The Gophers were not lacking chances to take the lead in the scoreless second period, which saw Sheehy shoot wide at an open net on a power play, and Brent Gates, Jr., clank the crossbar with a shot from just inside the blue line.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Sheehy said. “We’ve been working on that play during the week and it’s been working out, and tonight it didn’t. I’ll be losing sleep on that one.”
Schierhorn, who was the Gophers every day goalie prior to Mat Robson’s arrival via transfer last season, fell to 0-2-0 on the season despite his second strong effort in goal.
“It’s hockey. Goals go in sometimes,” McManus said. “I think he knows he played well and we all know he played well, and we told him that. I wouldn’t look at the record with how he played.”
Daniel Lebedeff finished with 32 saves for the Badgers (5-5-0, 1-1-0-0).
First period - 1. MIN, Brannon McManus 3 (Sammy Walker, Tyler Nanne), 11:15, (pp). 2. WIS, Sean Dhooghe 6 (Wyatt Kalynuk, K’Andre Miller), 18:00, (pp). Penalties - Dominick Mersch, WIS (5-checking from behind, game misconduct), 10:32; Peter Tischke, WIS (roughing after the whistle), 16:24; Blake McLaughlin, MIN (roughing after the whistle), 16:24; Clayton Phillips, MIN (interference), 16:52.
Second period - No scoring. Penalties - Tyler Inamoto, WIS (hooking), 4:47; Tyler Sheehy, MIN (slashing), 6:35; Rem Pitlick, MIN (slashing), 9:47; Jason Dhoogie, WIS (slashing), 15:11.
Third period - 3. WIS, Josh Ess 1 (Mick Messner, Jason Dhooghe), 10:20. 4. WIS, Jack Gorniak 1 (unassisted), 19:36. Penalties - Ryan Norman, MIN (boarding), 11:50; Jack Ramsey, MIN (high sticking), 20:00.
Shots on goal - MIN 13-10-10-33; WIS 14-7-11-32. Goalies - Eric Schierhorn, MIN (31 shots-29 saves); Daniel Lebedeff, WIS (33-32). Power plays - MIN 1-of-4; WIS 1-of-4. Referees - Brian Aaron, CJ Beaurline. Linesmen - Nicholas Bradshaw, Sam Shikowsky. Att. - 11,546.