MINNEAPOLIS — If you’re trying to find answers for how a game that was tilting toward the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team went so sideways so fast, take consolation in this:
Kyle Hayton is right there with you.
“I’m trying to find them, too,” the Badgers goaltender said Friday night after No. 7 Minnesota rattled off four second-period goals in a 5-4 victory over No. 14 UW at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
The four goals allowed in the middle frame was a season high for the Badgers. In the same 20 minutes, they set a season high with 20 shots on goal.
Those two stats might seem incongruous, but when you consider the ease with which the Golden Gophers were able to get sticks on pucks around the Badgers’ net, it’s not so hard to fathom.
Tyler Sheehy, Rem Pitlick and Scott Reedy scored on tap-ins or redirections around the crease for Minnesota in the second period, while Tyler Nanne added a power-play blast from the left side.
Minnesota exploited the defensive shortcomings in generating a crushing amount of momentum that the Badgers couldn’t stop until it was too late.
“College hockey is lots of momentum changes and shifts in games,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “When the other team gets it, you’ve got to find a way to stop it.”
Minnesota scored its four goals on 10 second-period shots against Hayton, who was pulled after Reedy made it 5-2 with a tap-in after Ryan Zuhlsdorf found a seam in UW’s defensive-zone coverage.
That goal came just 20 seconds after Nanne gave Minnesota a two-goal lead.
“I’d say we had some defensive breakdowns,” Hayton said. “Two of those were back-door (finishes). I think we just got away from our game for a little bit, and this team thrives when they have time and they can make plays. We let them make plays.”
Hayton (14 saves) didn’t make it to the finish line for the first time in his 16 starts for the Badgers. Granato said UW coaches would discuss the goaltending plan for tonight’s rematch in the morning after backup Jack Berry stopped all nine shots he faced.
“They made some nice plays on their goals, that’s for sure,” Granato said.
“You’re always looking for a big save to bail you out.”
UW (9-7-2, 3-3-1 Big Ten) had Minnesota (10-6-1, 4-4-1-1) on its heels in the first half of the game but didn’t do enough to pull away.
A power-play goal by Sean Dhooghe and a late rebound putaway by Jarod Zirbel gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead after the first period.
UW had a 12-3 advantage in shots on goal in the first half of the second, but Sheehy’s redirection of a Tommy Novak pass was the only goal in that time.
Then came the decisive stretch, when Pitlick, Nanne and Reedy scored in a six-shot span while UW struggled to derail Minnesota’s speed to the net.
“Coaches really put a good emphasis on that, and that’s what we came out and did tonight,” Reedy said.
Said UW’s Trent Frederic: “Good teams are going to capitalize when you don’t play well or step off the pedal.”
Frederic, who scored a third-period, power-play goal to cut the lead to 5-4 after Tarek Baker scored in the second, said he thought that the Badgers outplayed the Gophers for 50 of the 60 minutes.
“It’s pretty annoying, honestly,” Frederic said. “Obviously, it doesn’t sit well.”
The Badgers lost Linus Weissbach in the second period to what was officially termed an upper-body injury, making him questionable for tonight’s game. It appeared the forward was being checked for concussion symptoms.
That thinned the third-period resources for UW, which still had a number of opportunities to tie. The Gophers killed 1:48 of a Badgers power play inside the final four minutes.
“A lot of lines had chances,” Badgers captain Cameron Hughes said. “It was a tight game. We definitely can learn from it and be better and win tomorrow.”
Wisconsin 2 1 1 — 4 Minnesota 1 4 0 — 5 First period: W — S. Dhooghe 3 (Weissbach, Kalynuk), 7:14 (pp). M — Szmatula 5 (Gates, Reedy), 9:20. W — Zirbel 2 (J. Dhooghe, Ford), 17:21. Penalties: Lindgren, M, 5:36; Szmatula, M, 6:32; Kalynuk, W, 12:44.
Second period: M — Sheehy 5 (Novak, Marooney), 5:13; Pitlick 8 (Mittelstadt, Reedy), 11:54; Nanne 2 (Zuhlsdorf, Novak), 15:19; Reedy 3 (Zuhlsdorf, Novak), 15:39. W — Baker 7 (Wagner, Linhart), 17:09. Penalties: Marooney, M, 11:59; Sadek, M, 12:34; Hughes, W, 13:04; J. Dhooghe, W, 14:51.
Third period: W — Frederic 7 (Wagner, Kalynuk), 12:16 (pp). Penalties: S. Dhooghe, W, 4:43; Glover, M, 11:36; Freytag, W, 14:05; Gates, M, 15:52.
Saves: W (Hayton 8-6-x, Berry x-3-6) 23; M (Schierhorn 7-19-9) 35. Power plays: W 2-for-6; M 1-for-5. Att. — 8,301.