In the final contest between border rivals No. 1 Wisconsin (13-2-1-0 WCHA, 23-2-1) and No. 2 Minnesota (12-4-2-1 WCHA, 20-4-3) for the regular season, the Badgers shut out the Golden Gophers 3-0 to dominate this weekend’s series following an overtime win by Wisconsin last night. The teams were 1-1-1 this season before today’s win by the Badgers.
Wisconsin earned their top spot in the NCAA polls after this hard-fought battle against the No. 2 team in the nation. This marks the first time the Golden Gophers have been shut out this season, almost a year after the last time they were shut out when Wisconsin beat them 2-0.
“Obviously, having no goals against us is huge in a hockey game,” senior forward Presley Norby said. “We’ve been working on our zone defensively and just doing the little things that will help us make the playoffs this year.”
After its success last night, Coach Mark Johnson started his second line, which consists of senior forward Abby Roque, sophomore forward Britta Curl and senior forward Alexis Mauermann. Although this new line-up paid off for the Badgers last night where Roque captured the first score of the game within three minutes of the puck dropping, the Golden Gophers were on their toes and ready for this switch-up from Wisconsin. While Roque and her previous lineman junior forward Daryl Watts almost slipped one past Minnesota senior goaltender Sydney Scobee in the same time frame as last night, the seasoned goalkeeper shut down the dominant forwards.
Scobee kept up her dominance throughout the first frame, not letting a single one of the Badgers’ 10 shots on goal past her, even on the sole power play against Minnesota in the period. While forwards Roque and Curl sent rockets at the net, Scobee kept true to her season record of 1.63 goals allowed per game and let none slip past. Wisconsin redshirt senior goalkeeper Kristen Campbell kept up the same ferocity, keeping the Golden Gophers’ eight shots on goal out of her net.
“We’re ready for anything that comes our way, and I think that’s a real positive thing when you’re facing all these different bounces and game scores and being in different game situations,” Campbell said. “Obviously, shut-outs are nice, but I think the main goal is always to get the win, and that’s what we focus on as a team. Getting the win is the most important thing.”
Even with a scoreless first period, both teams had great looks. While the border rivals both gave up prime rebounds and had a clean period with few penalties, both defenses kept tight to their formations to shut down any player’s hopes of scoring.
And although nobody could get a puck past these top goalkeepers in the first period, the second frame proved to be more of a challenge for Scobee. Five minutes in, Norby took a shot from just below the blue line and doinked the puck off the right goal post into the Minnesota net. This marks her eighth goal of the season and the first score of the night.
“You talk about getting pucks in net, the first one wasn’t going very fast,” Johnson said with a smirk. “But, you know, if it’s in the right spot, it goes go in. Whoever was gonna score first today… was gonna create energy. When its us to score [first], the crowd’s energy is gonna help us, which is what happened.”
After being badgered for a full minute after Norby’s score, the Golden Gophers’ head coach Brad Frost called for a time out to regroup his team.
Frost must have devised a good plan for the players to listen to, for sophomore defender Gracie Ostertag almost nailed one in past Campbell right after the timeout. But, even after Frost’s prodding, the Minnesotan team still couldn’t knock one past the Badgers, even on their power play after Norby was called for roughing. Norby regrouped after her team stepped up and closed the hole she left and scored again with five minutes left, marking her second of the night.
“There’s always a little extra fire [when we play the Gophers]. Obviously, those are my friends from when I was growing up, being from Minnesota, and there’s always a little bit of a competitive edge when we play them and obviously we respect them a lot, so I try and bring my best game.”
While the refs let the players play (evident after Minnesota wasn’t called for checking Watts up against the boards), this was another clean period of hockey for the top two NCAA women’s hockey teams.
After a scoreless 19 and a half minutes of tough defense and beautiful offense, deafening cheers erupted from the LaBahn crowd as Watts, who leads both the Badgers and the nation in points, drove down the side of the ice to score an empty netter on the Golden Gophers.
“They’re a good opponent, and I’m sure we’ll see them again, and they’ll see us, and it’s been that way since I started coaching on the women’s side,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to play. We’re gonna win some, they’re gonna win some, and we become better by playing each other, especially in the second half of the season.”
The Badgers hit the ice next weekend against the St. Cloud State Huskies at LaBahn Arena on Feb. 1 and 2 at 3:07 p.m. and 2:07 p.m. respectively.