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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 15, 2024
Ann-Renée Desbiens

Ann-Renée Desbiens made the final save in the 12-round shootout to give Wisconsin the extra point. 

No. 1 Badgers battle No. 2 Bulldogs to draw in regulation, win in 12-round shootout

Through almost 50 minutes of play Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth, the top two women’s hockey teams in the country, had played a tight, closely-fought game that lived up to the expectations surrounding a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup. When Wisconsin’s Sarah Nurse scored to put the Badgers up 1-0. it appeared as if the Badgers would manage to escape with a win.

In the first 29 games of the season Wisconsin (21-2-2 WCHA, 26-2-2 overall) had been impeccable with a lead, compiling a 26-0-0 record when leading at any point in the game. It took an impressive play by Duluth’s Sydney Brodt, and a bit of luck, for the Bulldogs (17-4-4, 20-4-5) to break Wisconsin’s streak and emerge with a 1-1 tie at LaBahn Arena.

That tie set up the most dramatic moment of the afternoon, a 12-round shootout won by freshman defender Mekenzie Steffen, who scored to break a string of 18 consecutive saves by the two goaltenders.

“I just wanted to end it because it was really nerve-wracking on the bench and we were all gripping each other super close so I just thought, ‘might as well end it now’,” said Steffen, who beat Duluth’s Maddie Rooney with a short-side wrister. “That’s sorta just what I do. I don’t really have any good like, moves. I just saw it open and I was like, ‘might as well try,’ and it went in.”

With Steffen’s goal, the pressure moved to senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, who stopped Duluth’s Lynn Astrup to seal the extra WCHA point.

“I feel like [the last shot] is less stressful than the ten before that, if you let that in you’re done, so that one was the easiest one for my heart,” said Desbiens. “It took them like 12 rounds, but hey, we got it and at the end of the day when we won I felt really good.”

Much like the shootout, the first 65 minutes of play had been defined by the play of the goaltenders. Rooney in particular managed to frustrate Wisconsin’s offense, the best in the nation, as she recorded 43 saves against only one goal.

“I think it’s hard not to grip your stick a little harder when the pucks aren’t going in for you,” said Nurse. “The good thing about our team is we keep peppering the net and eventually something’s gonna go in.”

That something turned out to be a hard wrister from Nurse, who beat Rooney high with 10 minutes and forty-three seconds left in regulation to give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead. It was a lead that, for the first time this season, wouldn’t last as Brodt beat the defense and tucked the puck past the right pad of a lunging Desbiens to equalize with just over four minutes remaining.

“You look back on the goal we gave up, they got a bounce and they got a half-step and the girl made a nice play, or else it probably ends 1-0,” said head coach Mark Johnson. ““You look for breaks or opportunities. We need to be ready.”

With the tie, Wisconsin enters Sunday’s senior night needing a win to maintain their status as the consensus No. 1 team in the country.

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