Mike Eaves said he can’t wait to get to his Kohl Center office Monday morning, fire up the flat screen, grab the remote and relive what happened to his University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team Saturday night.
That might seem odd given the cringe-fest that awaits the UW coach following a 4-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association loss to top-ranked Minnesota before an announced crowd of 13,149 at the Kohl Center.
But the teacher — the challenge-seeker — in Eaves wants to replay every shift because he knows that great value can be found in its ghastly images.
“This was a good test for this young group,” he said. “We played against a talented, high-tempo team who brought their ‘A’ game tonight. We did not get the job done.
“If we’re going to say that experience is the best teacher — if you evaluate honestly what we did — we’re going to take a good, hard look at this and see the things that happened and how we can improve on that.”
The Badgers (5-6-1, 4-5-1 WCHA) were trying to follow up their 3-1 triumph in the opener, sweep Minnesota in Madison for the first time since Nov. 12-13, 1999, and move above .500 for the first time this season.
But after failing to capitalize on two top-shelf scoring chances in the second period, UW allowed three goals in the final 14 minutes on a night it was outshot 33-14 and badly outplayed down the stretch.
Sophomore right winger Tyler Barnes accounted for the lone goal for the Badgers — extending his point streak to a career-best 11 games — while freshman goaltender Joel Rumpel was credited with 29 saves in his first loss at home.
It was the first time this season Eaves used the same lineup for consecutive games. At the heart of that development was Rumpel, who had been rotating with fellow rookie Landon Peterson.
“Rumpel was excellent,” Eaves said. “He gave us a chance.”
Barnes, who leads UW with six goals, was a featured character in both scoring chances that went awry. They came a few moments apart in the scoreless second and are sure to be part of the detailed curriculum Eaves will present to his players.
“We could have been up 3-1,” Eaves said. “And we didn’t even get a shot on net in both of those.
“Everybody wants to be that guy that makes that nice pass rather than take the responsibility himself to snipe. … It’s something we need to address with our young team.”
The Gophers (10-2, 7-1) took their initial lead of the series early in the first when defenseman Seth Helgeson snaked a wrist shot from the slot past a screened Rumpel, but UW answered during a 4-on-4 sequence.
Sophomore center Mark Zengerle initiated a great passing sequence from the left circle, resulting in an assist that extended his career-best point streak to 11 games. He feathered a feed to the far point to junior defenseman and captain John Ramage, who quickly gave Barnes a pass that he one-timed past goaltender Kent Patterson (13 saves) near the left post.
The Badgers were on the power play later in the second when sophomore left winger Michael Mersch passed up an open shot from the hash marks, passing instead to Barnes, who had a wide-open look from the left post.
“I actually got pretty good wood on that one; Patterson made a great save,” Barnes said.
Moments later, Barnes was alone in the low slot with the puck and freshman left winger Joseph LaBate to his left. Barnes faked a shot and fed LaBate, who was just a few feet away. The pass seemed to have too much giddy-up and he partially fanned on the shot.
“I’m sure (Eaves) wanted me to shoot that one,” Barnes said. “I saw (LaBate) on my backside and thought I could get it to him. It didn’t work out.”
LaBate said he fully expected Barnes — both hail from Eagan, Minn. — to pass him the puck in that situation.
“It’s a 2-on-0 and Barnes did a nice fake,” LaBate said. “I was ready for it. It just slipped under my stick. There’s no excuses. I should have had it.”
Those lost moments proved costly in the third when a poor line change and two turnovers led to goals by center Taylor Matson, center Nick Bjugstad and left winger and Wausau native Nate Condon, respectively.
The surge “showed we can grind teams down and just wear them out in the third,” Condon said.
One night after a lifeless effort that was filled with poor decisions, the Gophers came focused, patient and opportunistic.
“We made some — excuse my language — dumb--- mistakes (Friday) night that cost us,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said after picking up his 300th win at the school. “That’s what we harped on. We can’t make mistakes to give them their chances. (Friday) night we did. Tonight we didn’t.”
Minnesota 1 0 3 — 4
Wisconsin 1 0 0 — 1
First period: M — Helgeson 1 (Matson), 6:12. W — Barnes 6 (Ramage, Zengerle), 16:24. Penalties: Hansen, M, 15:03; Springer, W, 15:10.
Second period: Penalties: Budish, M, :47; Woods, W, 3:00; Serratore, M, 11:55; Mersch, W (5-minute major, 10-minute game misconduct, contact to the head; served by Clark), 16:48.
Third period: M — Matson 3 (Condon), 6:14; Bjugstad 9, 13:16; Condon 5, 15:26. Penalties: Faust, W, 15:26.
Saves: M (Patterson 2-5-5) 12; W (Rumpel 11-8-10) 29.
Power play: M 0-for-4; W 0-for-3. Att. — 13,149.