Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008

Wisconsin hockey takes 3 points from Minnesota

By Nicole
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e had an absolutely spectacular time Saturday night at the Kohl Center as the Badgers came back from being down 2-0 to tie Minnesota.

The boyfriend didn't share my enthusiasm, but I was all psyched by the play of goalie Shane Connelly. I think he had an absolutely stellar game. One of Minnesota's goals came on a 5 on 3 power play. The other was a beautiful display of passing and puck handling, neither of which you can fault Connelly on.

This was a game that was a tale of two halves (I know, I know, they play periods, but the teams seemed to split the second period, so I'm saying they "halved" the game) as Minnesota came out of the gates quickly while Wisconsin looked flat. It seemed like the Badgers never controlled the puck for more than a few seconds at a time and their team chemistry and timing were off.

The Gophers held possession in their zone and kept peppering Connelly and went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead. The fans were hoping that the Badgers would come back for the second period fired up, but looked just as stale in the first part of the second period. We had a couple of power plays in which it seemed Minnesota controlled the puck more than we did and certainly spent about as much time in our zone as we did in theirs.

As the period went on, the Badgers got some momentum and started getting their own chances on net. Finally, at 11:32, Patrick Johnson scored a power play goal on a slapshot from the right face-off circle. Podge Turnbull and Jamie McBain assisted.

The goal brought the crowd back into the game and really changed the face of the game. The Badgers players were more energized and the Gophers seemed to deflate.

After the first two periods of play, the Gophers outshot Wisconsin, 21-14.

From here, the Badgers took control of the game. We peppered the keeper and had about 8 THISCLOSE chances. We controlled the puck, we made crisp passes and we generally watched the Minnesota team deflate and get tired.

There were at least 3 different times in the third period and OT in which there were long stretches of play without any stoppages and you could tell this took a toll on the Gophers. The stats show that each team had just 3 shots each in the OT, but it certainly didn't seem that way. The fans were all on their feet and there were about 5 collective gasps as we all thought the Badgers had the opportunity to end the game.

According to this article, the third period has been the IT period for the Badgers
"However, with the success Wisconsin has had in the third period, outscoring opponents 37-18 in the final frame, and the hard luck the Gophers have stumbled on in the same frame, it was only fitting that a crazy goal capped a traditionally physical weekend."

Connelly was the factor for Wisconsin in this game. In the first part of the game, his defense let him down and allowed Minnesota complete access to the net and Connelly made the best of the bad situation. At the end of the game, especially in OT when both teams were desperate, Connelly made two separate heart-stopping saves, keeping the game in the Badgers' hands.

The three points move Wisconsin into a tie for fourth place in the WCHA with Minnesota-Duluth, who the Badgers host this coming weekend.

During Friday's broadcast, the Pairwise rankings (hockey's version of the BCS, for lack of a better explanation. Here's an explanation) had Wisconsin and Minnesota tied for 16th place. Clearly the win and tie will move Wisconsin ahead. In general, a team needs to be in the top 14 of the Pairwise to make post-season. We're tied for 13th in the newest rankings.

Freshman Kyle Turris has really come out of his shell - this USCHO.com article talks about how his performance at the World Juniors seems to have lit a fire.

Freshman Patrick Johnson also had a stellar weekend. He had an assist Friday night. I thought he had two goals Saturday night as that's what was announced over the PA, but apparently that was changed after the game to an assist. Either way, he had a killer weekend.

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