MADISON, Wis. – A Minnesota boy won the spotlight, but he wasn’t wearing maroon and gold.
Freshman Grant Besse, of Plymouth, scored Wisconsin’s first goal and assisted on the game-winning goal, helping the 12th-ranked Badgers complete a rare sweep of the No. 1 Gophers on Friday night with a second consecutive 2-1 victory at the Kohl Center.
It has been nearly two years since the Gophers (19-4-5, 8-2-2 Big Ten) were swept. Denver was the last team to achieve the feat, in February 2012.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling. … Coming into this year I did have this series circled on the calendar,” said Besse, a former Minnesota Mr. Hockey at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. “I’m just glad to come out of here with two wins.”
Nic Kerdiles scored the winner 4 minutes, 33 seconds into the third period and assisted on Besse’s early goal in front of an announced sellout crowd of 15,359. It was his first goal since Dec. 13 after missing nine of 10 games entering the weekend.
Kerdiles-to-Besse and Besse-to-Kerdiles wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for an early line change made by Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves. He bumped Besse from the third line, where he started the game, to the first line.
“It’s disappointing, there’s no question,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “But you gotta look at it as a learning experience. … We needed that this weekend. Two very hard-fought games. It’s good we’re going to have a couple days off.”
Seth Ambroz scored the Gophers’ goal on a power play.
Wisconsin’s Joel Rumpel made 28 saves for a total of 59 in the series. Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox made 25 saves and suffered only his second set of back-to-back defeats through two seasons.
Everything was in order for the sweep. The Badgers had won 11 of their past 13 at home. They were coming off an emotional victory Thursday night. Fans packed the Kohl Center for its first sellout since February 2012.
It had been 14 years since Wisconsin (16-8-2, 7-4-1) swept the Gophers in Madison. The 1999-2000 season was the last time and it took overtime in Game 2 to finish it off. This time, it took two third-period goals to finish the job.
Rumpel stayed positive after Thursday’s game, though he knew how difficult it has been to win two in a row against their rival. He said the focus this season has been playing for a 1-0 record each night. That’s added up to 15-2-1 at home.
Wisconsin lost one of its top point scorers midway through the second period. Jake McCabe, who scored Thursday’s game-winning goal, was disqualified after a hit to the head on Kyle Rau.
The hard check shook up Rau, but he would quickly return. The game misconduct led to the Gophers’ power-play goal.
“They wanted a little revenge back here at the Kohl Center,” Ambroz said. “There at the end, both nights in the third, they obviously wanted it more. We didn’t produce offensively. They deserved it. They did all the little things we didn’t do.”