Connor Reilly couldn't help himself. He turned to Kyle Rau and said, "Can you scoot over a little bit? I need some more room," knowing very well it was the most space they have had on the Gophers bench in a long time.
Across the ice, six teammates and the penalty box attendant crammed into the small space after nine Gophers penalties late in the game.
The Gophers' generous lead and eventual 5-2 victory over rival Wisconsin allowed for the lighthearted moment Saturday evening — a much-different mood less than 24 hours after the team appeared to hit a new low.
What was announced as the third-largest crowd in Mariucci Arena history, 10,384 Hockey Day Minnesota fans were well-entertained by the Gophers' early five-goal surge and the free-for-all that ensued in the game's final minutes.
"I was laughing so hard on the bench. … I saw my brother Mike jumping in there, that's surprising," Reilly continued to joke.
"We definitely want to play better hockey in the second half [of the season] and start playing the way we can and up to our abilities, and obviously we've been frustrated and a little disappointed with underachieving so far to this point. So I think we responded well physically and mentally and we're sticking up for each other and you have to respect that."
Each team finished with 14 penalties, including four 10-minute misconducts, two contact-to-the-head penalties, a game misconduct and a disqualification.
Travis Boyd scored twice and had an assist a night after describing Friday's 2-2 tie and shootout loss as embarrassing. Sam Warning scored for the second night in a row and also had an assist. Connor Reilly and Christian Isackson also scored, Mike Reilly had three assists and Adam Wilcox had 24 saves.
The No. 16 Gophers (11-7-2, 2-2-2-0) improved to 6-2-1 on Hockey Day Minnesota and won only their second Big Ten contest of the season. Wisconsin (2-13-3, 0-3-1-1) leaves the rivalry weekend stuck on two victories on the season.
The big night was jump-started by another season-high for shots on goal (21) in the first period. The difference from Friday was the ability to convert them into goals. The Gophers led 3-0 at the first intermission after Boyd's two goals and one from Warning.
"Get 100 shots on goal on the weekend, we should get some rewards and tonight we did," coach Don Lucia said. "We did a good job getting to the net and got some rebound opportunities in the first period. … We were able to extend [our lead] and the game was over after the second."
The Gophers outshot the Badgers 50-26 and held them to 1-for-6 on power-play chances.
The Gophers established a physical presence after building the early lead and maintained it throughout the night. The aggressive effort, however, escalated to a level Lucia said he hadn't seen in years.
Warning's and Ben Marshall's 10-minute misconducts for being at the center for a scrum with Joseph LaBate late in the game were the beginning of penalty box filling up and eventually set up Grant Besse's second goal of the night for Wisconsin.
"I like the way we played tonight," Boyd said. "Like I said last night, we've got to finish our chances, and I think we finished our chances a little bit tonight. The end of the game, I'm proud of the way our guys stood up for each other and handled that situation."