The No. 17 Minnesota men's hockey team fell behind late in the first period and was unable to recover, falling to 15th-ranked Wisconsin 6-0 on Friday night at Mariucci Arena. Michael Mersch led the way with two goals for the Badgers and senior goaltender Scott Gudmandson stopped all 24 shots he faced to earn his fifth-career shutout.
"We obviously have to play a whole lot better than we did tonight," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "Wisconsin played well tonight and they deserved to win the game."
After holding the third-ranked Badger power play off the board three times in the first 16 minutes and trading chances throughout the rest of the frame, Mersch opening the scoring with under a minute to go in the opening stanza.
The freshman forward gained possession of a rebound off the side of the cage and made a wrap-around attempt that was stopped by Minnesota goaltender Alex Kangas, but then collected the puck again and put a third shot past Kangas on the glove side to make it 1-0 heading into the locker room.
The Badgers came out firing after the first intermission and would not look back.
Just 1:50 into the second period, sophomore center Derek Lee snuck out from behind the net and scored his third goal of the season to double the Badger lead. A little over six minutes later, Faribault, Minn.-native Jordy Murray scored his team-high sixth goal of the season to put Wisconsin up 3-0.
Mersch then struck again to put the game away with his fifth collegiate goal. After Kangas turned away the initial Wisconsin shot, Mersch made his way through a scrum in front of the Gopher net to poke home the loose puck and make it 4-0.
The Badgers would add another last-minute goal-their only power play tally of the game-when freshman Mark Zengerle swatted home a back-door rebound 39.1 seconds before the second-period ended.
The Gophers played stronger in the third, but were still unable to solve Gudmandson.
Despite allowing five goals through two periods, Kangas continued to battle. With less than ten minutes remaining, Gopher defenseman Aaron Ness hooked Craig Smith on a shorthanded breakaway and Smith was awarded a penalty shot.
After starting out by going wide to the left, Smith came down and faked left before quickly deking right, but Kangas slid over to make a leg-out, left-pad save.
Tyler Barnes completed the scoring for Wisconsin with 6:05 remaining in the game after skating around the Minnesota net and beating a diving Kangas with a quick shot.
"We just didn't play like we needed to play," said Gopher captain Jay Barriball. "They outworked us in the corners, they beat us to the net and we didn't do too many things well tonight. We didn't score a goal and gave up six. It wasn't Alex (Kangas') fault, we each need to play tougher and get pucks in."
The Gophers will look to earn a split with the Badgers as the two teams meet again tomorrow night at Mariucci Arena at 7 p.m.