Five or six Wisconsin football players brought Paul Bunyan's Axe to the Kohl Center midway through the third period on Saturday.
The crowd of 13,000 at Kohl Center went wild. So did one associate head hockey coach on the Gophers' bench.
"We got a little riled up, we wanted to defend our honor," Gophers coach Don Lucia said on Monday during his weekly radio show on 1500ESPN. "Guenz [Mike Guentzel] was really riled up on the bench about it, which was good, and made a few choice comments."
Probably not printable.
"From there end of it, I don't blame them at all," Lucia said. "It was perfectly all right for them to do that. It is a good rivalry and they won the axe. [Beating the Gophers 42-13 in football at TCF Bank Stadium.] They probably just got off their charter [bus] not too long before [their entrance at Kohl] and probably came right by the rink and brought out the axe.
"Hopefully next year when the Gophers are playing Wisconsin in Wisconsin and we are playing at home, we can bring the axe out at Mariucci Arena. That would be great."
The Gophers, already ahead 2-1, scored their third goal exactly 2-1/2 minutes after the axe was shown. The axe was cheered at 9:46 of the third period during a TV timeout.
Nick Bjugstad scored an unassisted goal at 12:16 to make it 3-1 Gophers. Nate Condon added a second unassisted goal at 15:26.
"Whether [those goals were] because of that or not, I can't say that," Lucia said, "but we talked about this weekend being the Badger-Gophers in three games, and the Packers and the Vikings [Monday] night. We wanted to do everything we could to defend our state's honor this weekend."
The Gophers won Saturday 4-1 after losing to the Badgers on Friday 3-1.
Lucia said Wisconsin won the series opener because the Badgers played a smart game, waiting for the Gophers to make a mistake. "Mentally, we made a lot of mistakes," Lucia said. "We played as individuals. ... Within five seconds, they scored two goals off of offensive zone faceoffs. And then we had a bad line change on their third goal.
"We didn't deserve to win the game on Friday," he said.
Saturday the Gophers played much better for a split in Madison. ""We were highly motivated, we were more physical," Lucia said. "There was a better atmosphere at the game on Saturday. And when you get out of Wisconsin, another big rivalry on the road, with a split, that is not too bad.
"I liked the way we responded. It was the first time we lost on a Friday. ... We came back in great shape."
EASING BACK A LITTLE
Lucia said, in hindsight, he may have not worked his players too hard last week after the tough, emotional sweep of North Dakota. He said the Gophers didn't seem to have their legs the first night of the Wisconsin series.
So this Monday, the Gophers had just a light practice. The coaches worked with the players for 20 minutes, then the players divided into maroon and gold teams to play small four-on-four or three-on-three games for 40 minutes without the coaches.
"They had an hour, but they had some fun," Lucia said, "and, hopefully, that will make sure they are mentally and physically fresh for practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday before we head up to St. Cloud on Friday."
He said the Gophers have trained hard and are in good shape but ... "we want to make sure we don't overpractice so we leave our game at the rink in Mariucci and not have it when we pack up our bags and head to St. Cloud on Friday night."
Lucia said he got home about 3:30 a.m. Sunday from Madison and went to bed a half-hour later. "I am tired [Monday] and I didn't play two games, so I am sure our players are tired as well."
THE DON SAYS
* On the Gophers' No. 1 national ranking: "The No. 1 ranking, I didn't say one thing about it [before the Badgers series] because it is irrelevant right now. There is a lot of good teams. It is just a week to week thing."
* On goalie Kent Patterson: "He has made some huge saves for us. But one of the things I like now is we haven't been giving up too many shots. Other than that Duluth weekend, our goaltender has not had to make more than 20-some saves in a game, which is a real good sign."
* On his three defensive pairs: "Our young group of six has hung in there. With the group of six that are playing night in and night out we are not too concerned about which two are out. All three pairs are pretty equal the way they are playing."