Second-ranked Minnesota entered Friday’s game against No. 1 Wisconsin on something of a skid — at least what accounts for one with the Gophers — with losses in three of their past four games.
Those three setbacks were road losses against the top-ranked Badgers and No. 4 Ohio State, of course, but the Gophers were in need of a victory.
They came within seconds of getting it.
Wisconsin’s Daryl Watts scored the second of her two goals to finish a three-on-one rush 2 minutes, 3 seconds into overtime to cap a furious 4-3 comeback victory at Ridder Arena.
Minnesota stepped on the gas early, taking leads of 2-0 in the second period and 3-1 in the third. But with Badgers goaltender Kennedy Blair pulled for an extra attacker, Britta Curl scored a rebound goal to tie the game with 25.5 seconds remaining.
“We were right there; we were in control of it,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “To their credit, they found a way and we didn’t. I know this one stings for our players.”
Madeline Wethington, Grace Zumwinkle and Crystalyn Hengler each scored goals, and Lauren Bench made 25 saves for the Gophers, who played much better than they did while getting swept by the Badgers Jan. 15-16 in Madison but couldn’t hold on.
“Losing to any team is awful, but especially with how close we were, against Wisconsin,” said freshman Abbey Murphy. “We felt like it was totally our game. … They score the third goal with, what, 24 seconds left? That sucked, but we still felt confident we could win.”
The Gophers’ first three-on-three overtime netted some scoring chances, but a defensive lapse gave the Badgers an odd-woman rush between the circles and Watts buried her chance for her 13th goal of the season. Caitlin Schneider also scored for Wisconsin, and Blair finished with 29 saves as the Badgers (9-2-0) won for the fifth straight time, and eighth time in their past nine.
The Gophers (9-5-0) have lost four of five, something they hadn’t done since 2010, when they lost four of five games (0-4-1) against Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and Wisconsin in February.
Minnesota started the scoring when Wethington flipped a shot on net from the left circle and seemed to catch Blair by surprise. The puck hit the bar with and crossed the goal line at 8:56. The Gophers added to their lead just over 4 minutes into the second period when Murphy threw a hard shot on goal and senior Zumwinkle potted the rebound to make it 2-0 at 4:16.
Watts scored her first goal at the end of the second period, but Minnesota answered with a power-play goal from Hengler to make it 3-1 early in the third period. Wisconsin, however, kept coming and pulled within 3-2 when Schneider potted the rebound on a shot from teammate Delaney Drake at 9:40.
Blair was pulled for an extra attacker with 56 minutes left and the Badgers tied it on Curl’s rebound goal in the crease with 25.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
The teams meet again Saturday for a 4:07 p.m. puck drop.
“As a team, we did a lot of the things we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to be successful,” Zumwinkle said. “But at the end of the day, you have to play a full 60 minutes. We had some lapses and gave up a few goals. Sure enough, we lost the game.”