MINNEAPOLIS — Wisconsin’s Jackie MacMillan stopped 40 shots but her offense was only able to supply one goal and Minnesota garnered a series sweep from the Badgers with a 2-1 win Saturday at Ridder Arena.
After getting off to a slow start Friday, in which they managed just four first-period shots, the second-ranked Gophers were intent on getting out to a quick start this afternoon and they did just that as Natalie Darwitz crashed the net to put home a Krissy Wendell rebound just two minutes, 49 seconds into the contest.
“I felt we started with much more energy,” Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson said. “That was one of our keys today. We wanted to come and get at least 10 shots on goal in the first period and we did that.”
Despite getting 13 shots in the opening 20 minutes, MacMillan kept her team in the game by stopping 10 more in the second and 19 in the third.
Eight of those 19 third-period shots were the result of three Gopher power plays. Even though they were successful in killing off all three, it took the Badgers out of their chance to tie the game.
“You’re killing penalties with your top players,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “That takes a lot out of them and, in the third period, we seemed to be doing that a lot.”
The Wisconsin defense held up despite being shorthanded. Sophomore Carla MacLeod is out until after Christmas with a broken leg and captain Sis Paulsen missed Friday’s game due to a disqualification penalty last weekend. Paulsen returned to the lineup Saturday but senior Kerry Weiland did not dress due to illness.
Johnson tried to combat that shortcoming by moving Kendra Antony back to defense in the opening period to buy the unit some rest early, and it seemed to pay off until the Badgers were penalized three times in a 7:28 span of the third.
MacMillan, however, was the difference between Wisconsin having a chance to win and being down by as many as five goals late in the game.
“Against an average goalie, several of those would have gone in,” Halldorson said “But Jackie played well tonight and gave them a chance.”
Wendell, who set up the Gophers’ first goal and scored the second on the power play at 4:44 of the second period, also credited the Badger goalie for keeping the game close.
“I think a had some great scoring opportunities,” she said. “You could go right down the line on our team and other people could say that opportunities too. But she came up with them.”
Wendell’s goal early in the second period looked like it might sink Wisconsin as the Gophers had controlled much of the play to that point but it was the Badger’s line of freshmen, featuring Nikki Burish and Shannon Cole, that got them on the board.
Nicole Uliasz found Cole in front of the net but her tip attempt did not get past Minnesota goalie Jody Horak. However, Burish came rushing down the slow and was able to knock in the rebound for her second goal of the season.
After that, it was all goaltending. Horak faced just 13 shots in picking up her seventh consecutive win of the season. MacMillan saw almost that many shots in each period.
“That’s the kind of game I like, where I face a lot of shots,” MacMillan said. “It gets you into the game right away.”
Despite a solid defensive effort and MacMillan’s outstanding goaltending, the Badgers have yet to find their offense, having scored just seven goals in their last four games while going 0-for-17 on the power play during that span.
Johnson juggled the Wisconsin lines but couldn’t come up with the right combination to get on the board. He was, however, happy with Cole and Burish.
“They looked very good out there,” he said. “They got matched up against Darwitz and Wendell a lot and looked comfortable, which was good to see.
“We just got a chance to see the top two teams in the country (UMD last weekend) and it was good for us to get them early. It gives us a chance to see what’s out there and to find out about ourselves and what we need to work on.”
The Badgers, who find themselves at the bottom of the WCHA for the first time in history, return home for a two-game series with St. Cloud State. Minnesota is home again for a two-game set with Bemidji State.