The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team was rolling. Then, in a flash, it was puzzled, stunned and, ultimately, overcome.
It took just 74 seconds for a two-goal Badgers lead to crumble into a one-goal deficit that No. 16 Minnesota held for a 3-2 victory over No. 20 UW on Friday night at the Kohl Center.
And it all started with a play that had Badgers goaltender Daniel Lebedeff on his backside in the crease and his teammates throwing their hands in the air in confusion.
Midway through the second period, Minnesota defenseman Ben Brinkman fired the puck into the empty top half of the net as Lebedeff waved at it.
The goalie was out of the play because, at the right of the net, UW’s Ty Emberson pushed Gophers captain Tyler Sheehy onto him. The shot from Brinkman came an instant later.
Referees upheld the goal after review, cutting UW’s lead to 2-1, because Emberson was responsible for Sheehy putting Lebedeff to the ice. Emberson also was called for interference, setting up further dominoes to fall against the Badgers in the following minutes.
It was the play that turned Friday’s game around, and the Badgers weren’t happy about it.
“I thought it was goalie interference, but I can’t do anything about it,” Lebedeff said. “It’s the ref’s choice, and the ref chose otherwise.”
Sheehy said he was trying to get position around the net.
“(Emberson) ended up hitting me a little harder than I was expecting,” Sheehy said. “It kind of threw me into the goalie. I don’t know if I took out his legs or what happened, but I ended up going down and he came with me. We ended up getting the puck to the net, and the goalie really didn’t have a shot at it.”
Badgers coach Tony Granato said the referees’ explanation to him was that Sheehy didn’t have time to clear the crease and let Lebedeff have a play on the puck. Granato sounded dubious that Sheehy tried to avoid the contact after being hit by Emberson.
Regardless, the Gophers also scored on their next two shots on goal, by Rem Pitlick on the power play and Ryan Norman, to go ahead. They took advantage of the Badgers not adequately dealing with a sudden change of fortunes.
“We just sat back and we played into their game for that couple of minutes there,” Badgers forward Max Zimmer said. “We can’t do that. We’ve got to play a full 60 (minutes). It was three shifts right in a row where they scored.”
Minnesota goalie Mat Robson stopped all 15 Badgers shots he faced in the third period and 30 for the game, sending UW (4-5, 0-1 Big Ten Conference) to its third straight loss and to under .500 for the first time this season.
The Gophers (2-3-1, 1-0) improved to 7-1-1 in their past nine games at the Kohl Center by using the quick momentum change to their advantage.
Twenty-one seconds after the controversial goal, Minnesota tied the game after UW’s Tarek Baker turned the puck over to Sheehy behind the net. Sheehy set up Pitlick for a quick putaway.
Another 53 seconds later, the Gophers had a 3-2 lead when Norman found room between Lebedeff and the right post.
The Badgers had a third-period power play to try to get even but couldn’t convert. UW got only one shot on goal over four unsuccessful man advantages in the game and fell to 0-for-10 in the three games they have been without forward Linus Weissbach (injured hand).
“It wasn’t sharp,” Granato said of the power play. “Linus is a big part of it because he’s pretty dynamic over there. ... I think there were things tonight that were available to us that we didn’t take advantage of.”
One of the Badgers’ best chances of the final period was foiled by Minnesota forward Brannon McManus. He tied up Sean Dhooghe’s stick with less than six minutes remaining as the UW winger was about to fire a loose puck toward an open side of the net after a rebound.
Brock Caufield and Wyatt Kalynuk scored in the first and second periods, respectively, to stake the Badgers to a lead that they couldn’t hold. They fell to 1-5 in Big Ten openers.
Minnesota 0 3 0 — 3
Wisconsin 1 1 0 — 2
First period: W — Caufield 2 (Ahcan, Mersch), 9:37. Penalties: S. Dhooghe, W, 3:14; Romanko, M, 3:14; Messner, W, 15:11; McLaughlin, M, 18:46.
Second period: W — Kalynuk 5 (Zimmer, Malone), 4:00. M — Brinkman 1 (Sadek, Ranta), 9:20; Pitlick 3 (Sheehy), 9:41 (pp); Norman 1 (McLaughlin), 10:34. Penalties: Sadek, M, 5:48; Emberson, W, 9:20; McLaughlin, M, 13:59; Inamoto, W, 19:02; Wait, M, 19:02.
Third period penalties: Zuhlsdorf, M, 8:44; Miller, W, 11:44.
Saves: M (Robson 8-7-15) 30; W (Lebedeff 10-8-6) 24. Power plays: M 1-for-3; W 0-for-4. Att. — 8,965.