Sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt of the Gophers had not scored a goal in 11 games. And he had not had a game-winning goal this season.
But on Saturday, his power play goal at seven minutes, 40 seconds of the third period was the decisive score as the Gophers edged Wisconsin 2-1 at Mariucci Arena before 10,241 fans. It was his third goal of the season.
"The whole night, [the Badgers] played hard," Schmidt said. "They stuck to their system. They created some turnovers. We had to make sure we stuck to our guns, especially in the third period. It is one of the best periods that we played."
That's saying something, considering the Gophers have outscored opponents 47-18 in the final period.
But this was Senior Night, the last regular-season home game for seven seniors. And Schmidt sensed the special atmosphere.
"It was good to get out there for a third period -- the last week of the year on our home ice," he said. "You can't get much better than that."
Schmidt said Erik Haula's short-handed goal at 4 minutes, 47 seconds of the third period got the crowd going. The goal was Haula's 15th of the season, but first short-handed.
"Once the crowd got into it, it got our bench going," Schmidt said. "And after our bench got going, it was really an uphill thing for us there. It was just getting the energy and the momentum back on our side. They had done a very good job of trying to take it away from us.That goal really helped us. It sparked our last period push."
He said the Mariucci crowd was as loud as he had ever heard it.
"You sit on the bench -- I was trying to talk to [backup goalie Mike] Shibrowski when Haula scored that first goal," Schmidt said, "and I couldn't even hear him talking back to me."
After the game, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod presented the MacNaughton Cup to the Gophers team. Captain Taylor Matson carried it around. So did Patterson, another senior. A photographer took a picture of the team and coaches with the Cup.
"I took the option of not touching it," said Schmidt, showing his superstitious side. "But it was more of our seniors' thing. It is their deal. Those guys have battled hard for us all year. They deserved the first crack at her. It was good for them, good for our program."
This is the 13th time the Gophers have won the Cup, but the most recent years were 2006 and '07, before any present players were on the team.
* Haula, with his goal, moved into a tie for the team lead in points. He has 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points. Sophomore center Nick Bjugstad has the mirror image: 23 goals and 15 assists for 38.
* Schmidt is fourth on the team in points -- one behind Kyle Rau -- with three goals and 30 assists for 33 points.