Minnesota (20-2-3, 12-1-3 WCHA) avenged their third period collapse from the night before and led the entire game against arch-rival Wisconsin (10-12-2, 7-8-1 WCHA), shutting out the Badgers 1-0 to earn a split in the series.
"All weekend long, it was a hard fought series and a split is a just outcome for the weekend," Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said.
For the second consecutive night, Minnesota was able to sneak a puck passed Brian Elliott in the early going. After getting Okposo back from an elbowing penalty, freshman Jim O'Brien fired a shot from the point that beat Elliott for the game's opening and only goal. Elliott had little chance of stopping the puck, as he was screened by two of his own defenders and O'Brien placed the puck in the perfect spot.
But unlike the night before where Wisconsin scored two unanswered goals to earn the victory, Minnesota held their ground. In fact, Saturday's game was a mirror opposite of the night before, where the Gophers struggled in all faucets of their game. While Wisconsin was the more aggressive and determined team on Friday, Minnesota was able to dictate the pace of play in the series finale by being more aggressive on the boards and to the puck.
"There's no excuse for the way we came out," assistant captain Jake Dowell said. "We should have matched their heart and had a counter punch. We didn't and that's why we lost this game."
"It was disappointing the way we came out," head coach Mike Eaves added. "Guys were saying they we're ready to go and Minnesota [still] took it to us. I thought we started clicking midway through the game [but] as much as I can applaud their effort in the second half of the game, I can equally say how disappointed I was we came out that way."
Minnesota also shut down Wisconsin's power play. A night after giving up two power play goals, Minnesota made the Badgers put up a goose egg in four tries. The power play was so out of sync for Wisconsin that Eaves put out his third line on their third power play attempt, a line that included two defensivemen with no career goals, in hopes of jump starting the offense.
The move didn't work, as Wisconsin only managed four power play shots, while Minnesota had two legitimate chances at scoring short-handed goals.
"As good as our power play has been the last three games, it took away energy from us," Eaves said. "We didn't work hard [on the power play], didn't support the puck, didn't win battles and Minnesota was more aggressive."
After Kellen Briggs struggled in net Friday, Minnesota turned to sophomore Jeff Frazee between the pipes and he turned in a beauty for his team. In his first game back from the World Juniors, where he posted a 4-1 record and a 1.77 GAA, Frazee didn't miss a beat, stopping all 30 Wisconsin shots in route to his ninth win of the season.
"I thought I played on the top of my game [in Sweden] and definitely think it carried over to this game," Frazee said. "It definitely felt good to get back on the ice."
One of the few things that clicked for Wisconsin on Saturday was the continued resurrection of Hobey Baker finalist Brian Elliott. After stopping 18 shots on Friday night, Elliott stopped 24 Gopher shots on Saturday. In what has been an uncharacteristic season for the senior net minder (2.28 GAA and .919 save percentage), Elliott has returned to form with a 1.67 GAA and .939 save percentage over his last six conference games.
"[Brian] played awesome this weekend," defensivemen Kyle Klubertanz said. "He held us in this game for sure. It wouldn't have been a 1-0 game without him. We just have to help him out and get him some offense, whether it is an ugly goal or whatever. We need to help him out."
The weekend wasn't a total loss for the Badgers, as they did accomplish one of the goals they set out to do; getting points. Now with a week off before facing Minnesota State at home, the Badgers have the opportunity to work on minute details that can get them prepared for the stretch run.
"We got points. That's the first thing," Eaves said. "We talked about every weekend in the second half of the season that we need points. We also got back three guys from Europe and we started their integration back into the system. A lot of their details weren't there this weekend."