Not all ties are created equal. Sometimes the two teams play evenly against each other while other times a goalie making his second start of the season shines in the face of adversity. The latter happened for Badgers goalie Landon Peterson Friday night.
The sophomore made 41 saves in only his second start of the season and Wisconsin (1-4-2, 1-2-2 WCHA) made the most of their week off by overcoming a pair of game misconducts to tie #3 Minnesota (6-2-2, 3-2-2 WCHA) 2-2 in WCHA play. Both teams earned a point in a game that left the majority of the players and coaches on each side frustrated.
Michael Mersch (Los Angeles Kings) scored twice for the Badgers while Zach Budish (Nashville Predators) and Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild) got on the board for the Gophers. Minnesota out-shot Wisconsin 43-24.
Despite his play, there was one thing bothering Peterson following the game that he focused upon.
"I'd like to take back one of the early goals. You never want to give up goals in the first five minutes."
That goal, which was scored by Budish, happened on a rare Wisconsin defensive breakdown that saw the Gophers captain wide open in front of the net only 3:49 into the game.
"I thought Zach had the best game he's had in a while," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said.
However, Minnesota held a 1-0 lead for just a shift. Derek Lee created his own opportunity on the other end of the ice and Michael Mersch roofed home a rebound to tie the game 16 seconds later. It was fitting to see both players score after each of their lines created multiple chances in the first ten minutes of the game.
Freshman goalie Adam Wilcox (Tampa Bay Lightning), who made 22 saves Friday, settled down afterward and the rest of the first period begin to transition into a stretch of power plays. Both teams came into the game expecting physical play and did not disappoint; making Friday's game feel like the second game of the weekend.
Neither team, however, was able to take advantage of their power plays. It was a trend which haunted a Gopher team who scored five power play goals last weekend against Alaska-Anchorage but only went 1-5 Friday.
"We got to capitalize on opportunities," said a dejected Budish. "Give Wisconsin credit but we had a couple chances.
"Our power play was good in practice and the last two weeks. 10 minutes of power play with no goals is unacceptable."
Their one power play goal came 48 seconds into the second period after Wisconsin's Frankie Simoneli tripped Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) 9 seconds earlier. Good movement by Nick Bjugstad (Panthers), Nate Schmdt and Budish set up an open Haula, who did not miss for his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
But the lead would not last as they let Wisconsin back in the game for the second time. Badgers head coach Mike Eaves was proud of his team being able to battle back and hold Minnesota to a total of 4:44 in the game.
"Resilient. We talked about this at length after the game and they were. They took a point from them."
Lucia agreed, saying that "when we scored, they had good shifts after that. (Wisconsin) had a good 3 or 4 minute surge after we went up 2-1.
The end result of that stretch was Mersch's second goal of the game. The Gophers were unable to clear the puck out of the zone and a Jake McCabe shot went off of Wilcox right to the Park Ridge, Illinois native.
As good as Mersch was Friday, he did not compare to Peterson. The sophomore only found out he was playing Thursday as a shakeup and made the most of it; making difficult tips by Justin Holl (Chicago Blackhawks) and Bjugstad seem easy.
"One thing about (Wisconsin's goalies) is that they push each other," said Eaves.
Even more difficult were a pair of questionable five minute majors that the Badgers had to kill and left Wisconsin without their entire top line (first line center Mark Zengerle missed the game with a broken finger). Joseph Labate was called for the first - hitting Erik Haula from behind in the second period - and Tyler Barnes followed in the third but despite chances by Minnesota, Peterson kept the puck out of the net.
Eaves did not want to talk about it after the game, pausing long to choose his words to find a diplomatic answer and settling on "I have to watch the video."
A pair of shots off the crossbar by Kyle Rau and Bjugstad along with a late opportunity in overtime by Christian Isackson (Buffalo Sabres) were the best chances Minnesota had but at the end of the day it went back to not converting on each of the two majors and getting secondary scoring.
"I'd have to look at the tape," Lucia said. "I don't know how many shots we had. I think we can do a better job taking away the goalie's eyes.
"I think we need get some secondary scoring. When you give up 2 goals you should win."
But no one did. The icy demeanor, not wanting to answer questions on both sides said it all. Wisconsin may be the happier team with getting a point on the road and being resilient but the only winner Friday was Landon Peterson.
-Attendance was 10,027 for Minnesota's second sellout of the year
-Tom Serratore, who left the ice woozy after the Barnes hit, passed concussion tests but his status for tomorrow is unknown.
-3 Stars were 1) Kyle Rau 2) Zach Budish 3) Michael Mersch.
For more University of Minnesota coverage, check out The Daily Gopher. For more University of Wisconsin coverage, go to Bucky's Fifth Quarter. You can also find WCHA and NCAA coverage atWestern College Hockey and SB Nation's NHL Hub.
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