The Badgers spent most of the day watching the Gophers' power play dominate en route to 6-1 UM victory in the final regular season game of the year.
Wisconsin (22-9-4, 17-8-3 WCHA) was already set to host Alaska Anchorage in next weekend's WCHA first round playoff series, but ideally wanted more momentum going into the series than the punch it received Sunday afternoon.
UW couldn't stay out of the penalty box Sunday and it cost them as the Badgers forced junior goaltender Brett Bennett and a worn out penalty kill unit back out onto the ice time and time again to face a red-hot power play unit.
"This team is lethal on the power play and they were on fire tonight," tri-captain Ryan McDonagh said. "We take pride in killing penalties, but when you go back-to-back that many it just wears on the same guys."
In Friday's game the Badgers took their fair share of penalties but behind a strong shorthanded effort, they forced the Gophers to go 0-of-6 with man advantage and UW came out with a win.
The Badgers weren't so fortunate Sunday, and Minnesota made the most of their opportunities, going 5-for-8 on the power play.
"They did a good job scouting us from last game and they really weren't giving much," senior Michael Davies said. "We still have to execute and make those plays."
UW came out with a ton of energy in the second period after falling behind early, but all the momentum created by several solid shifts and Michael Davies' game-tying goal, firing a one timer past UM goalie Alex Kangas (26 saves), was sucked away with a penalty.
McDonagh got in a scrap with UM co-captain Ryan Flynn and after both were given 10-minute misconducts, McDonagh was handed an extra minor for cross-checking. That's when the onslaught began.
"Up until the point that McDonagh got into the wrestling match we tied the game, we were coming on, and from there it just deteriorated," UW Coach Mike Eaves said.
Freshman defenseman Justin Schultz joined McDonagh in the penalty box and co-captain Tony Lucia redirected a shot from the point to give the UM the lead with the power-play goal.
"We just took a penalty and that was the turning point in the game right there," Davies said.
Cody Goloubef was called for roughing just over a minute later and Jacob Cepis buried a wide-open rebound with the man advantage.
Then it was Brendan Smith's turn to visit the box as he went off for unsportsmanlike conduct. That put another Badger in the box and it created another goal for Lucia.
UW had spells of good pressure in that second period, but repeated trips to the penalty box ended any hope for a comeback.
"I felt we were shorthanded the whole day," tri-captain Blake Geoffrion said. "Every time we got something going we took a penalty and lost all the momentum."
The Gophers poured it on in the third period as they added two more power-play goals.
"Tonight they took advantage of the opportunities we gave them," McDonagh, who was forced to watch the game slip away from the penalty box, said. "But if we continued to play five-on-five it could be a different story."
Aside from this outing, Eaves' squad has been terrific on the penalty kill throughout the season, and he seemed confident that Sunday's performance was just a fluke for the Badgers.
"What happened out there was an aberration," Eaves said. "But we will have their attention going into next week."
Like his coach, Geoffrion knows how critical special teams play is come playoff time and he and the rest of the Badgers will need to straighten out the special teams to be successful.
"We have to stay out of the box to win games this late in the season," he said. "Special teams is a huge thing going into the tournament and its hard to win games when your always shorthanded."
"I'm (ticked) off," he added. "We've obviously got to bounce back."
And Eaves sure hopes his team's recent performance doesn't carryover into the post-season.
"Hopefully we got a lot of things out of our system today."