Posted-November 16th, 2012 12:12 pm
Minneapolis -- Each team scored once, a total of seven penalties were called, two separate scrums took place in front of the net and the teams had to be separated heading off the ice.
That was just the first period.
There proved to be no love lost between Wisconsin (1-4-2, 1-2-2 WCHA) and third-ranked Minnesota (6-2-2, 3-2-2 WCHA) in the first meeting of the season for the border rivals, as the two battled to a 2-2 overtime tie inside Mariucci Arena on Friday.
With a total of 14 penalties called on the night--nine on UW and five on MINN--the game appeared to be playing into the favor of the Gophers’ strong power-play offensive, which had scored 12 of the team’s last 20 goals.
However, UW goalie Landon Peterson (Oregon, Wis.) recorded 41 saves and the Badgers killed off four of five Minnesota power-play opportunities, including two five-minute major power plays, to preserve the tie.
“It’s a border battle,” Michael Mersch said. “You expect a lot of intensity and that’s what there [was].”
Mersch (Park Ridge, Ill.) backed those words up, landing his blows in the bout by scoring two equalizers and setting the tone that the Badgers would not lie down to the rival Gophers.
The first of two early deficits UW faced came at the 3:49 mark of the first period, after Minnesota’s Nate Condon avoided a check in the corner, then found Zach Budish, who finished it off from the slot to make it 1-0.
With leading point scorer Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.) sidelined with a hand injury, one of the biggest questions UW faced was where the production would come from offensively. Mersch provided the answer--and quickly.
Just 26 seconds after Budish’s goal, Mersch took a feed from linemate Derek Lee (North Vancouver, British Columbia), was blocked on his first shot on goal by Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox, but grabbed his own rebound and scored up top to tie the game at 1-1 with 15:85 left in the first period.
Over the final 15 minutes of the period, seven penalties were called between the two teams. UW held tough, skating five-on-five, four-on-four and killing off a Minnesota power-play opportunity to exit the first period tied.
It was four-on-four hockey to begin the second period, following the aggressive first period of play, but the Gophers gained the 4-on-3 advantage after a tripping penalty from Frankie Simonelli (Bensenville, Ill.). With 19:12 left in the period, Eric Haula wristed one and found net through traffic to regain the lead for Minnesota at 2-1.
Trailing again and needing a response, Mersch stepped up again. Off a backhanded spinning no-look pass from Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.), Mersch finished off the highlight-reel play, picking himself up off the ice on the right side of net, collecting the pretty dish cross ice and putting it home to tie the game again at 2-2 with 14:54 left in the second period.
The goal was Mersch’s sixth on the season in just seven games.
The Badgers faced their toughest stretches of the night during the late second and early third period, after Eagan, Minn., natives Joseph LaBate and Tyler Barnes were each called for five-minute major penalties and ejected from the game.
LaBate was called for checking from behind at the 13:22 mark of the second period, while Barnes was whistled for a blow to the head at the 6:11 mark of the third period.
Facing two extended power plays, the Badgers killed both, despite being outshot 20 to nine through the second period and Peterson having to fend off a flurry of Gopher shots on goal in the final seconds of the second extended power play in the third period.
Gridlocked at the end of regulation, the two went to overtime, but Peterson finished off his strong 65-minute outing by keeping things tied and helped his team get out with a point.
Wisconsin and Minnesota skate again tomorrow night in the final game of the weekend series, with the puck set to drop at 8 p.m. (CT). The game airs live on BTN.
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