Badgers fall to Gophers in Big Ten hockey opener, 4-1

Posted-November 29th, 2013 8:58 pm

MINNEAPOLIS – The Wisconsin men’s hockey team’s foray into the Big Ten hockey era started well with an early 1-0 lead at No. 1 Minnesota (10-2-1, 1-0-0-0 Big Ten), but that would be all the offense the Badgers (4-4-1, 0-1-0-0 Big Ten) would muster in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of their long-time rival.

The Badgers struck first on an individual effort by Joseph LaBate (Eagan, Minn.) after a center pass by linemate Mark Zengerle (Rochester, N.Y.). The junior forward knocked the puck out of the air, did well to gain control and found room between Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox’ legs for the score. Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, Wis.) earned the second assist.

Special-teams play ruled much of the first period as five Wisconsin penalties allowed the Gophers five power plays and sapped UW of any offensive momentum that may have been created from the early score.

Wisconsin’s penalty kill kept the Badgers in the game by neutralizing many of Minnesota’s man-advantages, but the Gophers finally took control behind Mike and Connor Reilly.

Mike got on the board first, threading a shot after a faceoff pick play that freed the defenseman for a shot on Wisconsin goaltender Landon Peterson (Oregon, Wis.). The puck sailed through traffic and into the back of the net to even the score at 1-1 with the power-play goal.

The Gophers continued to press their advantage with a second first-period tally, this time off the stick of Seth Ambroz, who fired a shot from behind the UW net off of Peterson’s skate and into the goal.

The score would stay that way through an uneventful second period, before Connor Reilly netted the backbreaker with 9:14 to go in the contest. Reilly carried the puck down the right side of the ice, cut back to the middle, and beating Peterson blocker-side from the slot to put Minnesota firmly in control.

An empty-net goal from Ambroz put the finishing touches on the game for the Gophers.

The final shot tally read 45-25 in favor of Minnesota.

The Gophers held the Badgers scoreless on five power-play opportunities, while connecting on a power-play goal of their own on six chances.

Peterson kept the Badgers in the game with a solid effort, stopping 41 of the 44 shots he faced, while his counterpart, Adam Wilcox, turned away 24 of 25 shots on a relatively quiet night.

The Badgers look to rebound on Saturday, as they meet the Gophers for the series finale at 5 p.m. at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. The game airs live on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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