MADISON, Wis. – The Kohl Center’s booming horn rubbed it in.
For 10, long, seconds, it blasted as Wisconsin grabbed a 2-1 lead over the Gophers late in the third period on Thursday night.
“Something different” is the way Gophers forward Taylor Cammarata described the extended celebration. And something different is the way the Gophers were feeling after their first loss in two months and first Big Ten Conference defeat.
Wisconsin’s Jake McCabe scored the game-winning goal with 6 minutes, 13 seconds left in the third period and the Gophers’ tying efforts were trumped by goaltender Joel Rumpel.
Rumpel recorded 31 saves and Frankie Simonelli scored the first goal for Wisconsin (15-8-2, 6-4-1 Big Ten). Cammarata scored the Gophers’ only goal late in the first period.
“It feels a little different coming out of the locker room, the mood is a little different,” said defenseman Mike Reilly after the Gophers’ 14-game unbeaten streak was ended. “We haven’t lost in so long, so you gotta be able to move on and park it.”
Though half of the 15,237-seat arena was empty for the weeknight game, the student section and the announced crowd of 8,908 kept it loud as the No. 12 Badgers upset the top-ranked Gophers (19-3-5, 8-1-2).
Entering the third period, Rumpel had flashbacks to the teams’ last meeting. The Gophers scored in the final seconds on Nov. 30 to complete a sweep of the Badgers. The goaltender made sure that didn’t happen again.
He held off several late chances by the Gophers, including a 6-on-4 advantage in the final 27 seconds. With goaltender Adam Wilcox out of the net and Simonelli called for a penalty, the Gophers were in good position for another late goal.
“It was a heartbreaker,” Rumpel said about the one-goal loss at Mariucci Arena. “[Thursday] going into the third period tied again, we didn’t want that to happen again and we battled hard and didn’t let it happen.”
Opportunities to score weren’t the issue for the Gophers. They put 32 shots on goal, but Rumpel wouldn’t budge. Kyle Rau’s assist from behind the net to Cammarata was the only moment the Rumpel was caught off guard.
Wisconsin’s chances weren’t as often, but many of their 19 shots on goal were quality scoring opportunities. The power play gave the Badgers the early lead and McCabe’s patience set up the winner.
Jedd Soleway wrapped around the net and found McCabe alone. McCabe shuffled the puck and then shot it past Wilcox for the lead.
The 7:30 p.m. start didn’t affect the usual finish time. A lack of whistles sped up the game, most notably in the second period when the teams skated for 8:05 without a stoppage of play. The back-and-forth led to more scoring chances, but no points.
Wilcox finished the game with 17 saves.
The Gophers swept Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena over Thanksgiving weekend. The Badgers, however, are a much different team. They won 10 of 12 at home after leaving the Twin Cities under .500.
Historically, the Gophers have been good for at least a split in Madison.
“We did everything but get it to the final area that is the critical point, that 6-by-4 net,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “I thought we played well. I had no issue with our effort. You get 32 shots you think you’d get more than one [goal].”