Wisconsin, which visits the Gophers on the final weekend of the regular season, helped them on Saturday.
The Badgers upset No. 10 Denver 5-2 at the Kohl Center. Because of the loss, third-place DU fell four games behind the Gophers in the WCHA race and also dropped below the U in the PairWise ratings.
The Gophers are eighth team in the lastest PairWise, DU the 12th (both are actually tied with another team, but the Gophers win their tiebreaker, the Pioneers lose theirs).
“We were playing well and we just had to keep going and just needed to get one,” said sophomore forward Mark Zengerle, who scored the Badgers first goal in the seventh minute of the middle period. “Once we got one the floodgates opened and we played really well.”
Zengerle's goal tied the score at 1-1. Four minutes later Zengerle -- with his 30th assist -- set up freshman Brendan Woods for a goal to put Wisconsin ahead 2-1.
Forwards Keegan Meuer and Michael Mersch and defenseman Justin Schultz had third-period goals for the Badgers.
“No matter where we end up in the standings, this is the type of game we are going to need when we go into the playoffs,” coach Mike Eaves said. “This is a playoff-ready type of game. And that’s the mentality we need to have as we go down these next four games.”
The Badgers are tied for 10th place in the WCHA standings with Minnesota State.
Schultz said the sellout crowd at the Kohl Center was a big factor in the team’s performance Saturday.
“One of the things we talked about in the dressing room is getting these fans a goal," Schultz said, "and getting them going because they were hungry for one. Once that happened, we kind of fed off it and you could tell in the third period the boys were all fired up on the bench.”
The Badgers broke a five-game losing streak with the victory. The Wisconsin State Journal story on the game is here.
Jason Zucker and Drew Shore had the Pioneers' goals. Zucker also had an assist.
“We got our butt kicked tonight,” DU coach George Gwozdecky said. “We made some critical errors in our own zone and Wisconsin took full advantage. We must be better defensively, and we will be next weekend against North Dakota.”
The Badgers play at Bemidji State before their visit to Mariucci Arena.
* Denver beat Wisconsin 3-0 on Friday getting goals from Luke Salazar, Zucker and Nick Shore. ... Remember Zucker was hurt the weekend before, taking a big hit from Kyle Rau in the first game of the Gophers-DU series. Zucker didn't return that game, and missed Saturday's game. Rau got a one-game suspension after getting as five-minute major for boarding and a 10-minute game disqualification when the play happened.
Zucker, of course, is a Wild prospect. Initial reports from sources was that Zucker had a shoulder or rib injury or maybe a bruised lung. Whatever it was, it obviously wasn't serious because he returned the next weekend and played at a high level.
* The Gophers split with the Badgers on Nov. 11-12 in Madison. Wisconsin won the first game 3-1, the Gophers won the next night 4-1.