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Gophers top Badgers in wild OT affair to open series

There isn’t a more bitter rivalry in the Big Ten than the Border Battle between the Minnesota Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers. Friday night’s series opener was a great example of that, with the No. 7-ranked Gophers edging the Badgers 4-3 in overtime. 

Minnesota (14-5-2, 6-1-0-0 B1G) tried to end the game early with a 2-0 lead, but Wisconsin (10-8-1, 3-2-0-0 B1G) battled back to eventually tie the game at 3-3 in the third period. However, the Gophers just had too much eventually, and the captain Justin Kloos made sure the visitors went away winners with a goal just 1:43 in to the overtime period.

Despite the score line, it was a nice night in net for both goaltenders. Wisconsin’s freshman netminder, Jack Berry, stopped 36 of 40 shots faced, while Minnesota’s Eric Schierhorn pushed aside 29 of 32 shots by the Badgers.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin came in to this game with high-powered offenses. It was the Gophers who decided to showcase that in the first two periods of this game.

Just 4:30 in to the first period and Wisconsin’s questionable defense showed its ugly side, allowing Leon Bristedt to skate in free on the back end of a rush up ice. A quick move to the goal to get Berry out of sorts and a quick pass gave Bristedt a free look on the back door.

With a 1-0 lead, Minnesota continued to take it to Wisconsin throughout the rest of the period. It resulted in another goal from Bristedt, who simply was everywhere on the night.

He made it 2-0 on another bad situation in front of net, as the defense failed to clear players out as Berry had the puck in front of him. A few free pokes at the puck and Berry couldn’t keep control of it.

Bristedt would finish the night with a pair of goals and a handful of near-misses as well.

By the time Wisconsin caught its breath and slowed the game down it already was down a pair of goals and was outshot 18-6 in the first period alone.

Wisconsin did more than catch its breath at the first intermission, it regrouped and came out strong for the second period. That was evident in killing off the 22 seconds that remained on the Gophers man advantage.

It was obvious just 30 seconds later as captain Luke Kunin blasted one home from the top of the left circle to cut the lead to 2-1 in favor of the visitors.

After a crazy set of power plays were traded for most of the rest of the second period, it was an even-strength effort that gave Wisconsin a tie near the end of the second period.

Gophers netminder Eric Schierhorn had a great effort for most of the game, but he would like to have back the second goal for the Badgers. As Wisconsin applied pressure deep in the zone, Schierhorn let a puck loose in front of him and Matt Ustaski jumped on it to tie the game up at the 17:02 mark of the period.

As was the nature of the second period, things would only continue to stay wild. Wisconsin’s lead would last for just two minutes, as Minnesota would take the lead back on a goal from team leader Tyler Sheehy (15th of the season) to make it 3-2 at the 19:21 mark of the period.

Wisconsin would have a good opportunity later in the final minute, but things heated up after the whistle between UW’s Peter Tischke and UM’s Leon Bristedt. Swings were briefly exchanged and the duo would head to the sin bin to end the period.

It was fitting for a period that saw seven total penalties called and Wisconsin having a brief 5-on-3 advantage at one point.

Wisconsin ended the period with a 12-11 lead on shots, doubling the effort from the first period.

Things settled down after the second intermission, with both teams doing well to stop efforts in the 4-on-4 that opened the final period. However, it was all Badgers after the first 90 seconds of the period.

UW peppered Schierhorn throughout the first half of the third period and all of that effort paid off with a brilliant piece of individual work from Cameron Hughes.

He took a pass up ice and bounded around a Gophers defender only to hit the deck. But, he managed to know Trent Frederic was trailing in the middle and flicked a puck in his direction as he hit the deck.

Frederic found a way to get in the net, likely hitting off his skate, and most importantly tying the game up at 3-3 at the 9:21 mark of the third period.

Minnesota hung on for dear life to the tie at that point, literally. With just seconds remaining Corbin McGuire nearly ended the game in regulation with a blast from point-blank range on Schierhorn.

Instead, the Minnesota netminder, who stopped 29 of 32 shots, somehow got his body in front of the puck just as time was about to expire. Schierhorn paid for it, noticeably taking his time to recover after the shot hit him.

That effort was only equaled by Kloos’ in overtime, as he paid his goaltender back for that effort with the quick game-winner in the OT period.

Wisconsin and Minnesota will end the series tomorrow with puck drop at 5pm CT at the Kohl Center. You can find the game on Fox Sports Wisconsin alternate or BTN2Go.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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