MINNEAPOLIS - Senior captain Justin Kloos put the No. 4 Gopher Hockey program up for good with his sixth game-winning goal of the year as Minnesota topped No. 19 Wisconsin 3-2 on Saturday night to reclaim sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.
The Gophers line of Rem Pitlick, Kloos and Tyler Sheehy combined for six points (two goals, four assists) with each forward notching a multi-point game for the Maroon & Gold.
A night after falling by a 3-2 margin, the Gophers (21-9-2 overall, 12-4-0-0 Big Ten) reversed the score in the final meeting of the regular season between the Border Battle rivals and now hold a three-point lead in conference play with four games remaining.
Pitlick put Minnesota up early with his 11th goal of the year when the Gophers rookie put a puck through Matt Jurusik's five hole at 8:24 of the first period off a feed from Sheehy. Ryan Norman padded the lead to two when he flicked in a power-play goal with five seconds left in the opening stanza. Jake Bischoff and Kloos set up the second goal as Minnesota's power play went 1-for-3 on the night.
Wisconsin (18-11-1, 11-5-0-0) rallied with a big second period for the second night in a row, scoring two power-play goals from Luke Kunin at 5:18 and Jake Linehart at 19:44.
After a back-and-forth start to the third period, Kloos found the puck on his stick and fired in the deciding goal at 14:54 off assists from Pitlick and Sheehy. With six game-winning goals on the season, Kloos ranks tied for the NCAA lead in the category while 13 career game-winning goals rank tied for second among active skaters.
The Badgers pushed hard for the equalizer in the final minute, but a sprawling save from Eric Schierhorn and a great grab on the goal line by Vinni Lettieri locked up the win for the Maroon & Gold. Schierhorn picked up his Big Ten-leading 21st win of the year on Saturday, making 29 saves to move to 21-9-2 on the season. Minnesota continues the Big Ten season next weekend with a pair of games at Michigan.
- Of note for the Gophers...Kloos now ranks tied for 31st in program history at 146 points (62 goals, 84 assists) with Trent Klatt...the senior captain needs one point to tie Steve McSwain for 30th all-time...Sheehy added two assists to his Big Ten scoring lead and now has 48 points (18 goals, 30 assists) on the year...Bischoff's assist moved him into the top 10 in scoring this year among NCAA defensemen - his 28 points lead all Big Ten defensemen.