Jan. 22—Minnesota's Amy Potomak put her team behind the 8 ball on Friday night, then released the pressure with the game-winning goal.
Potomak finished a two-on-one with Audrey Wethington with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining, and Makayla Pahl made 40 saves as the fourth-ranked Gophers edged top-ranked Wisconsin 2-1 on Friday to start a big weekend series at Ridder Arena.
With the win, the Gophers (18-6-1) are 2-0-1 against Wisconsin this season — that includes a 3-2 overtime win in Madison — and have a WCHA-best 43 points after losses by the Badgers (18-2-3) and No. 2 Ohio State.
"It feels really good," Potomak said.
Potomak, a senior center, earned the second assist on Madeline Wethington's go-ahead goal at 8:28 of the second period and scored the game-winner when she backhanded a pass at the crease over Badgers goaltender Kennedy Blair at 17:26 of the third.
Her boarding penalty with 8:28 left in the game, however, changed the complexion game for Minnesota, which was leading 1-0 and suddenly had to kill a five-minute major. Although there was no initial call, on-ice officials reviewed the play and charged Potomak with boarding Wisconsin blue liner Grace Bowlby.
"Obviously, I disagreed with it, but that's what it was and what they saw," Gophers coach Brad Frost said.
Referees can review a call if they believe they might have missed a major, so their review had to result in a major or nothing. The Badgers made hay immediately, tying the game 19 seconds later on Daryl Watts' finish at the crease, which bounced off Pahl and over her shoulder.
It was the fourth kill of the night for Minnesota, and they had more than four minutes to kill to keep the score tied. An interference penalty on Watts resulted in two minutes of four on four before the Gophers successfully killed off the final 59 seconds of Potomak's penalty.
Overall, the Gophers gave up one goal in 11 minutes of skater-advantage for the Badgers, who came into the game averaging 4.4 goals a game, second in the nation.
"Then we had six minutes just to go win the game and found a way to do it," Frost said.
Potomak's goal ignited the biggest Ridder crowd of the season — an announced 2,278 — and put the Badgers back on their heels. Her shot hit the top of the net just behind the crossbar and dropped in.
"You definitely want to try and redeem yourself when something like that happens, especially when they score on it," Potomak said "But our team did a really nice job of just keeping it to one (goal) there. Honestly, it killed all day; our penalty kill was phenomenal."
Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson pulled Blair with 1:29 left but Minnesota held on. The teams meet again Saturday for the last time in the regular season. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m.
Minnesota put consistent pressure on Blair and the Badgers through the first two periods, but Pahl kept them in the game with a series of magnificent saves, including on a one-on-none breakaway by Brette Pettet at 9:42 of the second period. Just after Wethington's goal, Pahl stopped a point-blank shot from Caitlin Schneider to preserve the Gophers' lead heading into the third period. The junior had 30 saves after two periods.
"She was phenomenal today," Potomak said. "She made a lot of really crucial saves for us. Her just keeping that (five-minute kill) to one really contributed to our success. She really stood in her head tonight."