This weekend Wisconsin and Minnesota renewed their border battle. Excitingly, Ann-Reneé Desbiens was back in net for the Badgers after missing four games due to injury. Sarah Potomak was also back in Minnesota’s line up, which was a relief considering how badly she went down in last Sunday’s game. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Alex Woken, who sustained a knee injury last weekend that will require surgery and will likely miss the rest of the season.
Saturday’s game was a fast paced battle of skill in front of a sold out crowd. Both teams attempted a lot of shots, but had most of their efforts blocked or otherwise nullified by the other side. In the latter half of the period Caitlin Reilly put a nice shot on goal from an angel, which Desbiens blocked, and then Mikaela Gardner took down Nicole Schammel without a call. This was the first indicator the referees were going to just let the teams play.
Annie Pankowski puts a shot on Sidney Peters that deflects between the circles, which could have been bad for the Gophers, but there was no Badger to corral the rebound. Sophia Shaver and Baylee Wellhausen put together a grat play, which Peters stopped before Wellhausen tried again. This time the Badger’s shot got through Peters’s pads, but the goalie’s efforts diverted the puck enough it slid harmlessly past the far post. In the last minute of play Sam Cogan took a hooking penalty at 19:15. Armed with a power play, Minnesota put a flurry of shots on Wisconsin’s goal, but Desbiens stopped every one despite being down on the ice. Obviously, tempers flared a little at this, as Kate Schipper and Sydney McKibbon were both assessed slashing penalties at 20:00 for their actions at the end of the period.
Second period started with greatly opened ice, but the 4-on-3 play did not make a difference. All three penalties harmlessly expired. Minnesota continued to lead in shots, but Wisconsin was not far behind, as both teams continued shooting and blocking shots. Wisconsin spent an extended time in Minnesota’s zone, completely gassing the Gopher skaters, but couldn’t quite get anything to click before the Gophers finally got fresh legs on the ice. Then Potomak earned a penalty at 12:09 for roughing up Presley Norby after the whistle. The Gophers killed the penalty.
Then they managed to draw one of their own when Cogan went back to the box for tripping, despite the fact it was Emily Clark who first took down Sydney Baldwin before taking a skate to the helmet. Minnesota put in some of their patented puck cycling and eventually Schipper drove the puck home, top-shelf, from just outside the crease at 17:42, since the Badger covering her had broken her stick. Dani Cameranesi and Kelly Pannek assisted, which not only helped Schipper earn her 100th career point, but also got Cameranesi her 200th career point as well. Abby Roque went down in pain, but ignored it in favor of playing and refused an open door in favor of climbing over the boards when her shift ended despite the fact she was still visibly in pain.
Third period started in a disturbingly similar fashion to Minnesota’s last game. Roughly thirty seconds in Cameranesi was bumped into some of Wisconsin’s boards back first and then fell awkwardly to the ice. She was down for a while before being helped off the ice and left the game due to multiple lower body injuries. Though she was able to walk down the tunnel on her own and after the game, Cameranesi did not return play this weekend. Hopefully, this is the last time a Gopher is injured this season. Play turned into a lot of back and forth puck chasing after that. Minnesota started to ease off a little as Wisconsin piled on shots, looking for the equalizer. Skaters also played more chippy, with both sides making hits they had not previously done in the game, and the refs let them. Possibly because it was still a high speed-high skill game that typically ends up physical sooner or later.
Sophie Skarzynski lost the puck to Pankowski, who put a great shot on goal, though Peters made the save. Gardner made an odd shot, but Peters still managed to cover it and a little later Pankowski hit the crossbar. At 13:21 Taylor Williamson earned a penalty for interfering with Gardner’s scoring attempt, but the resulting power play did not help the Badgers. At 19:02 Desbiens was pulled for the extra skater and then Wisconsin used their time out at 19:27 to rest their best skaters for a final attempt. There was a goal ten seconds later at 19:37, but it was an empty netter by Schipper. Desbiens returned to her net and then Minnesota won 2-0.
Sunday’s game was also a sellout because Wisconsin has some of the most passionately vocal fans in collegiate sports and was hosting the Minnesota faithful. As a response to their play yesterday Badgers came out flying. They barely let Minnesota touch the puck before Sarah Nurse came up the left side as part of a 2-on-1 and shot the puck into goal over Peters’ glove at 3:13. Maddie Rolfes and Gardner assisted. Minnesota retaliated, as Reilly blew past Wisconsin’s defenders on the right side and had all the time in the world to blast the puck past Desbiens, tying the game at 6:12. Kippin Keller and Stecklein assisted, the former earning her first point as a Gopher on the goal.
Wisconsin had another good chance when the puck was loose in Minnesota’s crease and Peters was down, but Stecklein cleared it. Instead, the Badgers pulled ahead when Nurse put a shot on goal from the left side, the puck deflected up the slot to McKibbon, and she banged it home at 10:56. Seconds later a Gopher turnover results in Wellhausen streaking up the middle, bypassing two Gophers, and tapping the puck into the left side of goal from the top of the crease at 11:19, unassisted.
At this point Minnesota used their time out in hopes of regaining some control of the game. However, it didn’t help as the Badgers caused a turnover in the neutral zone to Nurse, who skated up the center and put the puck on goal. While Peters made the initial save, Stecklein had been grabbing onto Nurse, trying to hamper her shot, and Nurse managed to shake Stecklein off at the crease, which sent the Minnesota defender falling onto her goalie and the puck across the goal line at 12:30. To aggravate Minnesota’s situation, Stecklein’s actions also sent her to the box for holding, but the Gophers killed the penalty.
Williamson drew an interference penalty on Rolfes at 15:42, which put the Gophers on the power play. They cycled the puck until Megan Wolfe made a high slot shot that—thanks to Piazza and several other screens Desbiens didn’t even see—found the back of the net at 15:51. Pannek and Schipper assisted. Roque took a cross-checking penalty at 17:45, but this time the Gophers were unable to convert.
After all the action in the first period, it wasn’t that surprising there was a delay before second period could commence. However that delay, lasted over ten minutes as a tool to fix one of the holes for the net’s peg got stuck in the ice, which was rather awkward considering this game was being televised on Fox Sports North (or FS Wisconsin). Eventually though, they got the drill bit out of the ice with a blow torch after the vice grips failed to get the job done.
Reilly had a break away shot that just went wide. Then Nurse had a break away of her own down the center, faked to the right, and as soon as Peters lunged for the save, tapped it into goal on the left side at 1:54. Nurse’s hat trick, which was assisted by Norby and Rolfes, was the first Wisconsin has ever completed against Minnesota. The Badgers kept buzzing after the goal and the situation in Minnesota’s zone became rather froth when Katie Robinson’s stick broke, but Keller eventually cleared the zone. Minnesota was trapped on the defensive, with Wellhausen’s breakaway shot hitting Peters’s blocker and Pankowski hitting the crossbar. Then Roque carried the puck into Minnesota’s zone and made an absolutely flawless pass behind her own back to Wellhausen, who then buried it behind Peters from the top of the left circle at 7:42.
Admittedly, the Badgers did not make many direct shots on goal this period, but Minnesota’s first came at 10:38 when Pannek shot directly into Desbiens’s pads. Minnesota also had a nice play, which ended in Baldwin putting a backhander goal despite the fact it started with a Gopher being hooked, though there was no call. Then Piazza was checked from behind, which should have been called. Instead the referees sent Paige Haley to the box for slashing at 18:56, which expired in the third period.
Third period started with Peters being replaced in net with Serena D’Angelo. Minnesota started to catch up on shots this period, as Wisconsin eased up a little and started playing their younger skaters for the experience, since they had such a significant lead. Williamson put a great shot from the circle on Desbiens. Then Alexis Mauermann made a shot from the top of left circle, which went in low on the left side at 6:50. Mauermann’s unassisted goal made history, as it was the most Wisconsin goals Minnesota has allowed in a game in program history, which spans 87 games.
Wellhausen made another attempt down the left side, but D’Angelo had the save. Then Clark raced up the right side and passed from the top of the circle through the crease to Pankowski, who tipped in the puck from just left of the crease at 14:01. Cogan had the second assist. D’Angelo fended off a few more shots before the game ended, with Minnesota falling 8-2 to Wisconsin. This was the largest margin the Badgers have ever beaten the Gophers by and the last time they allowed this many goals was on Nov 7th, 1999, in a 8-3 loss to Harvard. Having Cameranesi out of the lineup when facing down a riled up Wisconsin, who still happen to be the number one team in the nation, made a difference. Hopefully Minnesota will be ready to play, whether or not Cameranesi can, next weekend as they face Boston University before the midseason break.
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