MADISON, Wis. -- It was a meeting of the nation’s best tonight as the No. 2 Wisconsin women’s hockey team fell to No. 1 Minnesota, 3-2, in an epic conference showdown at LaBahn Arena.
The Badgers (23-4-2, 19-4-2-1 WCHA) fought hard in front of the sellout crowd, but goals scored by redshirt junior Brittany Ammerman and junior Blayre Turnbull weren’t enough to overcome the Golden Gophers (29-1-1, 23-1-1 WCHA) as Wisconsin suffered its fourth loss of the season.
“Minnesota plays at a real high pace, so if you’re going to compete with them you have to play fast and you have to take care of the puck and certainly try to not commit many penalties,” UW head coach Mark Johnson said. “The three games we’ve played against them have been pretty similar games. The scores are a little bit different, but they found a way, the Friday game up there, to score on a late power play late in the third. And they were able to score on sort of a broken-type play midway through the third.
“That’s the difference in the game.”
Junior Katy Josephs and sophomore Courtney Burke each tallied an assist on Ammerman’s goal, her eighth power play goal of the season. She is now tied for first in the nation for power play goals. Turnbull’s unassisted goal tonight marks her 14th of the season and 24th of her career.
Senior netminder Alex Rigsby brought fans to their feet after multiple big stops, recording 30 saves in the losing effort. She now holds a 13-3-2 record on the season.
The Badgers’ special teams unit showed strength in a physical first frame, killing two penalties and producing the first goal of the game on a UW power play.
Two quick Minnesota violations handed Wisconsin a 5-on-3 advantage seven minutes into the game. As the Golden Gophers’ fourth player was returning to the ice, Josephs fired a wrister from 20 feet out that Ammerman tipped into the back of the net, putting the Badgers on the board eight and a half minutes into the game.
Despite being outshot by Minnesota 10-3 in the first frame, the Cardinal and White headed into the second with a 1-0 advantage.
But Minnesota battled back, producing some chaos in front of the Badgers’ crease that resulted in a goal 5:44 into the middle frame. Wisconsin outshot UM 10-9 in the second, but was unable to light the lamp before the close of the period. With the score knotted at 1-1, Badger fans prepared for an intense final 20 minutes of hockey.
The Gophers struck first, sneaking a shot past Rigsby on a UM power play to take their first lead of the game at the 3:37 mark of the final frame. Turnbull retaliated just two minutes later as she wove her way through the Minnesota defense and sent the puck into the twine, tying the score at two goals apiece and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
But the Minnesota offense was persistent, lighting the lamp for a third time on a rush in the heart of the period to earn a 3-2 lead. Wisconsin refused to go down easily, producing a flurry of powerful offensive strikes in the final minutes of the game. But the Badgers couldn’t even the score, and the Gophers claimed the first contest of the weekend series.
The series concludes tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center in front of another sellout crowd with the fourth-annual Fill-the-Bowl event.