The Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team (28-10-2) prevailed once again in the NCAA Tournament — this time against the rival Minnesota Gophers (30-6-3). After losing to Minnesota earlier in the postseason in a game that would have sent them to the WCHA title showdown, this win was especially sweet for Wisconsin.
Friday’s matchup started out stressful for Badger fans, as the Gophers took an early lead in the first. Minnesota forward Taylor Heise tallied the first goal of the game. Wisconsin desperately tried to get the puck out of their defensive zone but was unsuccessful.
After a few missed attempts, a Gophers shot from the blue line proved to be useful. The puck rebounded off the back wall and Heise shot it straight to the top of the net to make it 1-0 Minnesota.
The goal was special, as it marked Heise’s 30th of the season — making her the first player in women’s hockey to reach that number.
After the initial goal was scored, both teams had some good looks, but the netminders on each side were locked in, allowing no more scoring for the remainder of the period. The first ended 1-0.
In the second period, physicality increased from both teams and a few penalties were exchanged. The first was on Grace Zumwinkle for interfering with Wisconsin goalie Cami Kronish.
Before that power play expired, Wisconsin was called for a tripping penalty with 13 minutes left in the period. The teams then played 4-on-4, but neither team was able to score.
While the Badgers maintained a greater number of shots on goal than Minnesota, shots were still not falling, and the period ended 1-0 Gophers.
With 13:28 left in the game, Laila Edwards finally tied it up for Wisconsin, putting Badger fans at some ease. The two teams faced off in the Badgers’ offensive circle before players got tangled up when fighting for the puck.
The puck was left out for the taking and Edwards did not hesitate. She swiped it, skated in on goal and shot to tie the game at 1-1. Just a minute later, Sophie Shirley scored to take the lead for Wisconsin.
The Gophers flipped the puck around the back of the Badgers’ net, but it was overshot and ended up sliding to center ice. Maddi Wheeler picked up the puck along the boards and skated 2-on-1 with Shirley.
At the last second, Wheeler passed it off to Shirley, who sent the powerful shot right past Minnesota goaltender Skylar Vetter to make it 2-1 Wisconsin.
With just over a minute left in the game, the Gophers tied it up. Minnesota resorted to pulling their goalie, which proved to be successful. Heise made the first shot attempt on the play, which went flying into the shin of Wheeler. The ricochet went straight to Madeline Wethington, who shot it and scored to tie the game.
The third ended 2-2, and the teams were headed to overtime.
The Badgers brought it down to the wire in overtime, scoring with just over three minutes left in the 20-minute period. Nonetheless, the Badgers came out on top of a close game once again. Caroline Harvey ultimately got credit for the OT goal.
After receiving a pass from along the boards, she had a wide open look and made it seem easy as she tucked it into the top right side of the goal with a powerful shot.
The upset win sends Wisconsin to the NCAA Championship game against Ohio State. The tough matchup will be played Sunday at 4 p.m. in AMSOIL Arena. This will be the Badgers’ ninth appearance in the championship.