The way Wisconsin suffocates the middle of the ice, Don Lucia figured there would be limited opportunities at even strength when the Gophers opened a two-game series with the Badgers.
But the Gophers' biggest problem Friday night is that Wisconsin stymied one of the nation's top power plays to frustrating degrees.
The Badgers were called for two major penalties, yet they shut out the WCHA's top-ranked power play on both as the Gophers left another conference point on the table in a 2-2 tie at Mariucci Arena.
"That was basically the game," said leading scorer Erik Haula, who scored a 4-on-3 power-play goal and had an assist for his 23rd career multi-point game. "It was in our hands. I think we had our chances, but it's all about executing."
The third-ranked Gophers, despite outshooting Wisconsin 43-24, are 6-2-2 and, at 3-2-2 in WCHA play, have lost six of a possible 14 conference points. The tie ended a seven-game home winning streak dating to last year.
Landon Peterson, a sophomore playing his 15th collegiate game, put on a clinic with 41 saves and Michael Mersch scored twice as the Badgers (1-4-2, 1-2-2 WCHA) squeezed out a big point.
This is a Wisconsin team that has faced constant adversity. Freshman Nic Kerdiles was suspended by the NCAA, leading scorer Mark Zengerle is injured and assistant coach Bill Butters suddenly resigned this month. Friday, the Badgers lost two forwards, Joseph LaBate and Tyler Barnes, to game misconducts.
"We just seem to keep running into them 50-mile-per-hour headwinds," coach Mike Eaves said.
LaBate was called for checking Haula from behind in the second period. Barnes was called for a check to Tom Serratore's head in the third. Asked if he agreed with the calls, Eaves said: "I've asked [Supervisor of Officials Greg] Shepherd to come down because I'd like to discuss those with him. How's that for a diplomatic answer? I just saved myself $1,000."
Regardless, the Gophers didn't score on either major, including an abbreviated 3-minute, 34-second power play late that had the Mariucci faithful audibly aggravated.
"Ten minutes on the power play without a goal is unacceptable," captain Zach Budish said.
Added Lucia: "We had zone time. We've got to find a way to throw the puck through when they're going to pack it in. I think we can do a better job taking away the goaltender's eyes."
The Gophers, who had 16 shots on the power play, have scored 10 power-play goals in the past five games but have scored only four at even-strength in that stretch.
Budish scored one less than four minutes in after impressive hustle by Wisconsin native Nate Condon, who beat out an icing, then hit the brakes to let John Ramage crash into the glass before coming out with the puck.
But Mersch responded 26 seconds later. Seth Ambroz had a goal disallowed because the referee lost sight of the puck in the first, but Haula scored early in the second. Still, the Badgers again answered with a four-minute surge that ended with Mersch's second goal.
Lucia admits concern with the lack of 5-on-5 goals.
Kyle Rau hit a post in the second. Nick Bjugstad hit a crossbar in the third. Christian Isackson missed the net from 10 feet out in overtime.
"The right guys had some pucks," Lucia said. "We have to have some secondary scoring. ... We need some other guys to step forward."