MADISON, WIS. – A span of 100 seconds saved the Gophers men’s hockey team’s season, at least for one night.
Vinni Lettieri fought for a rebound and found the net 11 minutes into the second period … and the downpour of offense began, barely giving rival Wisconsin a chance to digest the rapid pace at which the Gophers scored.
The burst of life flipped a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead midway through the second period and led the charge in a 7-5 Gophers victory over the Badgers on Friday night at the Kohl Center.
“It’s huge that we were able to find a spark and able to react the way we did and come back with those four goals,” said Seth Ambroz, who led the Gophers with two goals. “That’s a huge step forward for us.”
After Lettieri’s unassisted goal against Joel Rumpel pulled the Gophers (12-9-2, 3-2-2 Big Ten) within 3-2, only 61 seconds passed before Jake Bischoff connected for another rebound goal, tying the score.
Ambroz notched his second goal of the night off a rebound 26 seconds later. Leon Bristedt joined in by scoring yet another goal off a rebound 13 second later.
“Down 3-1 on the road, it’s tough,” Ambroz said. “Especially after letting up a goal there late in the first, that’s deflating in itself, and then they score again.”
Fasching and Jake Bischoff each had a goal and assist. Brady Skjei, Sam Warning and Travis Boyd each had two assists, while 13 Gophers players notched a point and each line scored at least one goal. The seven goals were a season high.
Adam Wilcox finished with 27 saves in his 100th career game.
With more than a dozen games left on the Gophers’ Big Ten schedule, it’s too early to assume the 100 seconds of offensive bliss could save their season — but it’s a good start. A victory over this Wisconsin team (2-16-3, 0-6-1) is anything but special, but the Gophers put together a run in the second half of the game that they haven’t done all season.
The run also included more defensive miscues that gave the Badgers some life late, two weeks after Wisconsin rallied from a two-goal deficit at Mariucci Arena. But Gophers coach Don Lucia wasn’t going to nitpick over the details.
“We needed a win,” Lucia said. “I don’t care how, but we needed a win and we were able to get that tonight. … Give our guys credit, we got down 3-1, you’re on the road, and things haven’t been going well, and Vinni had a big goal to make it 3-2 and we battle back to win an important game for us.”
The importance was obvious on the bench. The Gophers were stuck in the bench with heads low trailing 3-1, but only moments later they were on jumping up and down celebrating. Even Lucia got in on the celebration after the fourth goal with an ovation for his team.
The sophomore slump could also be on the mend with goals from Lettieri, Fasching, Bischoff and Taylor Cammarata.
Wisconsin’s white-out promotion lost steam in the third period as the Kohl Center’s red seats slowly reappeared after the Gophers extended their lead to 7-4 with 11:04 to play. The final two goals from sophomores sent the message that the Gophers offense wouldn’t let up.
“Those four goals, like boom, boom, boom, boom, it was pretty crazy,” Bischoff said. “It’s a start. We got to build of this for sure. It’s definitely a start and a base to it and hopefully we can keep going from here.”
Matt Ustaski led the Badgers with a goal and assist, and Grant Besse and Joseph LaBate each had a goal and assist. Joel Rumpel had 28 saves.
“It was like somebody turned the light off for a minute and forty seconds, and we had no clue what our brain was doing,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves lamented on the mid-game swing.