Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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It took an old rival to end the Gophers’ long unbeaten streak.
Wisconsin scored late in the third period for a 2-1 victory on Thursday night at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. It was the Gophers’ first official loss in 11 Big Ten games and ended the nation’s best 14-game unbeaten streak.
“We’ve been on a pretty good streak, definitely,” Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly said. That doesn’t mean we’re playing our best hockey.”
The two-plus months without a loss say otherwise. The Gophers hadn’t been defeated since Nov. 24, a 6-2 beating from Minnesota Duluth. They responded with a sweep of Wisconsin over Thanksgiving weekend and kept on winning.
The Badgers would end what they helped start. They didn’t forget the feeling of losing at Mariucci Arena in the final seconds and shared it with the Gophers two months later.
There wasn’t much more the Gophers could do better, coach Don Lucia said. He was pleased with how the game started, progressed and finished. They just couldn’t get the puck by Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel, who finished with 31 saves.
“Playing well gives you chance to win, it doesn’t guarantee you win,” Lucia said. “You want your team to play well and you can live with the results.”
Read Thursday's game story.
• There were a lot of empty seats at the Kohl Center on Thursday night. Though there was an annouced crowd of 8,908, the stadium seats 15,237 and looked half empty.
The rare weeknight game on the Big Ten Network likely had an effect on the usually well-attended matchup. The Gophers also played a Sunday-Monday series at Penn State earlier in the year.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said Friday night's game should be better attended. Thursday night's victory will add to the excitement. None of the current Gophers have ever been swept in Madison.
• The loss had immediate consequences for the Gophers. They fell from their top spot in the PairWise rankings and RPI index. Boston College moved to No. 1.
Wisconsin is No. 11 in both of these ranking systems.
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Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly:
Gophers coach Don Lucia: