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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, May 29, 2023
Annie Pankowski

Badgers break down Rooney, Minnesota-Duluth to claim third-straight WCHA title

University of Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Maddie Rooney had stolen the show the day before against Minnesota, and for 40 minutes, she threatened to do the same to Wisconsin in the final of the WCHA Tournament.

The sophomore netminder had turned back 42 of the Badgers’ 43 shots, and with the score tied 1-1 the game, and the conference title, were up for grabs in the final period.

It took junior forward Annie Pankowski just 33 seconds to break the tie, the first of three goals in the final frame that gave No. 1 Wisconsin (22-2-4 WCHA, 31-2-4 overall) a 4-1 win over No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth (19-5-4, 25-6-5). The victory gave the Badgers the WCHA Tournament title, their third consecutive and seventh overall.

"I'm excited for the players," head coach Mark Johnson told "We threw a lot of pucks at the net today and I kept telling the players not to get frustrated, because most times it'll eventually go in.”

After a scoreless first period in which the Badgers controlled most of the play but were thwarted by the Duluth defense, it was the Bulldogs that managed to get on the board early in the second frame. A shot from the point from Duluth’s Sydney Morin deflected off the shin of freshman defenseman Mekenzie Steffen and between the legs of senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens.

Wisconsin continued to dominate the possession battle down a goal, allowing only two shots in the ten minutes following Morin’s tally. With the pressure they were generating, it seemed only a matter of time until the Badgers equalized, and just past the midway point of the game it was their captain, Sydney McKibbon, who took a rebound off a shot from senior defenseman Jenny Ryan and put it into the open net.

Pankowski’s tally, off another shot by Ryan, gave Wisconsin the lead, but the margin was quickly extended by a spectacular shorthanded effort by senior forward Sarah Nurse. Nurse took a pass from McKibbon and spun past a Duluth defender with the puck on her backhand before switching to her forehand and beating an outstretched Rooney five-hole.

"[McKibbon] got herself open in a great space and I knew that if Syd got that puck and could chip it in that I'd be gone," Nurse told "She did a great job on the wall getting the puck to me and I ended up putting it in."

Another goal for Pankowski gave the Badgers a three-goal lead, and after a few more saves by Desbiens, Wisconsin had captured the conference title for a third-straight season.

"This was just another box we wanted to check off," McKibbon told "Being regular-season champions was something that we wanted to accomplish, and then this two-week tournament was our next goal so we'll enjoy this for tomorrow and then get back to work on Tuesday and try to reach our last goal."

Wilma, as the conference tournament’s trophy is affectionately known, has historically been the strongest predictor of success in the NCAA tournament. The WCHA tournament champion has gone on to win the national title in 12 of the last 16 years since the NCAA first recognized a champion.

Three Wisconsin players, McKibbon, Ryan and junior forward Emily Clark were awarded all-tournament honors, while Rooney received the tournament MVP after making 112 saves in less than 24 hours.

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The win secured the Badgers a spot in the upcoming NCAA tournament, where they will likely face CHA champion Robert Morris next Saturday in Madison.

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