Clean start: Badgers blank Mavericks in opener

MADISON, Wis. -- Led by the strong goaltending of senior captain Alex Rigsby, the No. 6-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team topped Minnesota State at the LaBahn Arena Friday night to begin their regular season play with a 3-0 victory.

Rigsby played the full game at goaltender for the Badgers, claiming her 84th career win after recording 25 saves. She also recorded her 24th career shutout in the process, which is the second-most in school history.

“We needed her tonight, she made some saves,” UW head coach Mark Johnson said. “There was probably eight or nine minutes in the second period that we played some time on our end. When they had scoring opportunities, she made saves. It’s nice having a senior back there, someone who is experienced and certainly the leader of our team.”

Redshirt junior Brittany Ammerman and junior Karley Sylvester each contributed a goal in the victory. Sydney McKibbon, one of four freshmen to make her regular season debut for the Badgers, added the third goal.

“The young players all looked comfortable out there,” Johnson said. “They all played well. They all had some scoring opportunities, so the nice part is that they will grow as time goes on. We’ve got a start and now we can move forward.”

The conference rivals played an even first period with the puck dividing its time on both ends of the rink. Wisconsin took nine shots on goal in the first period and Minnesota State took eight.

Early in the second period, junior Blayre Turnbull soared down the ice on a breakaway and fired a shot that bounced off MSU goaltender Danielle Butters’ shin guard. Ammerman followed close on her heels and managed to punch the rebound shot past Butters into the back of the net, putting Wisconsin on the board with 14 minutes left in the second stanza.

Both teams had power plays resulting from two-minute penalties in the second but couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Rigsby ended the period with 11 saves to maintain the Badgers’ 1-0 lead.

Wisconsin sealed the victory with two more goals in the final period. Seven minutes in, senior Madison Packer connected with Sylvester in front of MSU’s goal and Sylvester sent the puck past Butters, giving the Badgers a 2-0 lead.

The Mavericks made a final comeback attempt by pulling their goaltender out of the net with two minutes left in the game. With members of both teams struggling for the puck near mid-ice, McKibbon managed to slide the puck down the rink into the unguarded net with less than a minute left in the game.

Coming off a 3-0 exhibition win over Team Japan 11 days ago, the matchup between the Badgers and the Mavericks was the first in a two-game series.

With the win, Wisconsin now holds an overall 57-1-3 record against Minnesota State. The two teams will finish the two-game series at the LaBahn Arena tomorrow at 3 p.m.

“The big thing is to manage their ice time tomorrow because you’re playing back-to-back games and it’s early in the season so you’re not in really great game shape,” Johnson said. “If we came back tomorrow with the same effort, hopefully we get the same results.”

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