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Wisconsin Badgers can’t overcome slow start, split series with Gophers

Saturday’s season series finale against Minnesota had a familiar feel to it. Once again the second period changed the face of the game between the Badgers and Gophers. 

This time it was Wisconsin digging out of a 2-goal disadvantage, putting in two power play goals in the second period to tie things up heading in to the final stanza. However, the comeback couldn’t be completed this time and the Gophers got the 3-2 victory to split the weekend series.

It also meant the Gophers and Badgers ended the weekend exactly where they started — with the Gophers holding a three-point advantage in the Big Ten conference standings.

Minnesota dominated the first period, with Wisconsin struggling to put anything on the Gophers net and the Gophers holding a 15-5 advantage in shots. That resulted in a 2-0 advantage on the scoreboard as well.

Rem Pitlick got things going for the Gophers, slotting home his 11th goal of the season between Matt Jurusik’s pads at the 8:24 mark of the period. Tyler Sheehy got his 29th assist on the season as he was able to slot a pass to Pitlick between two Badgers defenders.

Minnesota couldn’t find another way past Jurusik for most of the period. However, Ryan Norman doubled the advantage with five seconds left in the first period.

Jurusik had one of his better games in net despite the shaky early start, stopping 27 of 30 shots faced on the night.

Minnesota’s 2-0 advantage was cut in half at the 5:45 mark of the second period, as Luke Kunin slotted home a wrister past Eric Schierhorn and made Minnesota pay for putting the Badgers on the power play. It was his 20th goal on the season as well.

Wisconsin nearly copied the Gophers’ first period script, pouring on the offensive pressure all period and eventually cracking the code late in the period as well. UW held a 13-6 advantage in shots and a late Jake Bischoff penalty cost the Gophers.

As Matt Ustaski parked in front of the Gophers net, Jake Linhart snipped his sixth goal of the season with just 16 seconds left in the period to make it 2-2.

With the game tied up heading in to the final period of the regular season between these two bitter rivals, things got physical, very physical between the two teams.

Wisconsin had a golden chance at the end of the game though, as they won the only penalty of the third period and nearly made the Gophers pay for a 6-on-4 advantage given to the visitors. UW nearly slotted home a shot off a face-off in the Gophers zone, however a save by Schierhorn’s stick-side arm and some timely defense to clean up a puck heading over the goal line kept the scoreline at 3-2 to the Gophers.

Schierhorn’s crazy save was indicative of the night he had between the pipes, stopping 29 of 31 shots against him.

It was the last good effort on net for the contest by the Badgers, and Wisconsin now faces the gauntlet of Penn State and Ohio State to finish off the regular season with a three-point deficit to overcome.

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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