MADISON, Wisc. — No. 4 Wisconsin gave No. 1 Minnesota a tough challenge in the first game of their weekend series, but the Badgers’ intensity early on was snuffed by the Gophers’ strong offense in a 2-0 shutout defeat.
Minnesota (14-0-1, 12-0-1 WCHA) took a 1-0 lead at 11:04 of the second period when Gopher defender Ashley Albrecht found Natalie Darwitz right in front of the net. It was one of just two Minnesota shots on Wisconsin sophomore goalie Christine Dufour for the period.
Wisconsin (11-4-0, 7-4-0) had nine shots in the second period, including a power-play at 9:03, but Minnesota goaltender Jody Horak held strong.
Senior left wing Kelly Stephens put in a rebound for the critical insurance goal with 2:12 left in the game to seal the win.
“That was a huge goal that we got,” said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson. “But that was a tough game and it was a big win for us.”
Horak made 22 saves in the shutout victory. Wisconsin could not take advantage of any of four power play opportunities.
“I thought we could have been a little stronger on the few power plays that we did have just to create some scoring opportunities,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson. “I thought we could have been a little more poised with the puck in several situations to create some more scoring chances on the power play.”
Although the shutout was disappointing for the Badgers, they did put up a fight defensively. Minnesota was averaging over six goals per game entering the weekend, and Wisconsin held them to only two.
“They’re very strong defensively and it was tough for us to get loose,” Halldorson said. “We didn’t create the offensive chances that we’re able to create in a lot of our games and that’s a credit to the way Wisconsin plays defense. Not just their defensemen but their team is very disciplined that way.”
The Badgers are looking to lead another intense effort against the Gophers in Sunday’s game. Johnson sees today’s loss as a learning opportunity.
“It’s going to make us a better team because it’s going to give us confidence that we can play with them 5-on-5, and that we can compete with them,” Johnson said.
Halldorson is encouraging the team to continue the level of effort poured into the first game. She expects game two to be just as rough of a battle as game one.
We just have to keep battling and working hard trying to create as many chances as we can,” she said.