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Late Goals Sink Gophers as Badgers Rally

MADISON, Wis. -- Losing to your arch-rival always hurts. But when a Minnesotan fires the winning puck for your neighbors from the east, it’s doubly painful for the Gophers.

Such was the cruel hand of fate on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Kohl Center, where the Gophers fell 3-1 to Wisconsin after Lakeville, Minn., native Josh Ess blasted the decisive goal for the Badgers near the halfway mark of the third period.

The Gophers (2-4-1 overall, 1-1-0-0 Big Ten) took an early lead on a Brannon McManus goal, but were lacking puck luck on a night where their shots clanked the net’s crossbar on more than one occasion. Jack Gorniak added an empty-net goal with 23.2 seconds left as the Badgers got their first conference win.

Eric Schierhorn made his second start of the season in goal for Minnesota, turning aside 29 shots in the loss. With the game tied 1-1 and the teams trading scoring opportunities in a wide-open third period, Ess fired a puck from the blue line that made its way through a crowd in front of the Gopher net, deflecting off the left post and landing behind Schierhorn.

That Gophers captain Tyler Sheehy put a hard shot off the crossbar a few shifts later on a shorthanded opportunity seemed indicative of the team’s fortunes, or lack thereof, all night.

The game featured a puck out of play that ended up in the Badgers net, a lengthy video review to determine it was no goal, a referee injured when he inadvertently collided with Gophers forward Sampo Ranta, and three high-quality scoring chances by the visiting team. And that was just in the first five minutes.

Minnesota took the early lead when Badgers center Dominick Mersch was ejected for checking Sheehy from behind. The Gophers got just two shots on the ensuing five-minute power play, but one of them was a blast from McManus that deflected off a Badger and into the upper left corner of the net.

The Badgers knotted the score on their first power play of the game when Sean Dhooghe blocked Schierhorn’s view of a long shot by Wyatt Kalynuk, then tipped the puck past the goalie for a 1-1 draw after 20 minutes. The Gophers were not lacking chances to take the lead in the scoreless second period, which saw Sheehy shoot wide at an open net on a power play, and Brent Gates, Jr., clank the crossbar with a shot from just inside the blue line.

Daniel Lebedeff finished with 32 saves for the Badgers (5-5-0, 1-1-0-0).