MINNEAPOLIS — When Wisconsin and Minnesota meet, there often is little separation between the victors and their victim.
The No. 3 Badgers (10-1-0, 8-1-0 WCHA) made the most of their opportunities in extending their winning streak to 10 games. Wisconsin received goals in the 2-0 win from a pair of forwards who once called the Twin Cities home, freshman Angie Keseley and senior captain Sharon Cole.
“In my four years, most of the games we’ve played against this group have been pretty tight, pretty close,” said Badger coach Mark Johnson. “Tonight, getting a bounce here, getting a power play goal made a big difference in the game.”
After avoiding a shutout for the past three seasons, No. 4 Minnesota (9-4-0, 4-3-0 WCHA) wound up scoreless for the second time on the current homestand.
“We just couldn’t buy a goal tonight,” said leading scorer Erica McKenzie.
Keseley got the only goal Wisconsin needed at 8:42 of the first period, taking rookie Erika Lawler’s centering pass and sliding it between Brittony Chartier’s pads.
“Lawler went in and forechecked really hard, put pressure on their defense,” Keseley said. “Through her hard work it came out, and I was there and shot it on net.”
“We had two good chances to get it out, and it led to a problem where we left somebody in front and a turnover behind the net,” said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson. “It’s one of those things, where against a good team they cost you.”
The Badgers were happy to take a lead into the locker room at the first intermission.
“Anytime you come out of a period you haven’t played up to your capabilities and you’re leading 1-0, that’s a positive thing, as long as the players understand that they can play better,” Johnson said.
Halfway through the second period, Cole collected a rebound of Meaghan Mikkelson’s shot off the end boards and provided the Badgers with some insurance. Bobbi-Jo Slusar also assisted.
“I don’t think [Chartier] expected it to come around like it did,” Cole said. “I didn’t have that good of an angle, but I wanted to shoot it as quick as I could before she moved over.”
The Gophers sagged perceptibly after falling behind by two. Wisconsin dominated the remainder of the period but could not increase its margin. However, the hosts refocused in the locker room, and had the better scoring chances in the final frame.
“We’re not out of this at all,” was the message McKenzie and her teammates carried out of the dressing room. “It’s two shots, and it could be a tie game.”
However, goaltender Meghan Horras didn’t allow even one such shot. McKenzie unleashed a head high rocket from the circle over Horras’ shoulder, but the senior from Appleton managed to get enough of her glove on it to deflect it over the crossbar. Minutes later, McKenzie rushed into the Badger zone, used a defender as a screen, and rang one off of the pipe to Horras’ left.
“That Mac pipe made me think it wasn’t our night tonight,” Halldorson said.
By pitching a shutout, Horras improved to 6-0-0 on the season.
“[Wisconsin] is an unbelievable team that’s been [ranked] either number two or three in the country,” McKenzie said. “We got shutout tonight it’s a good lesson for us. We played a great team tonight, and I think we’re all ready to come out tomorrow.”
The Badgers victory snapped a six-game winless streak in the border battle. It was only their fifth win against Minnesota in their seven-year history.
“I think there’s always an extra incentive against Minnesota,” Cole said. “They’re a big rival and [several Badger] players are from Minnesota.”
Johnson knows that the season is still young and there is little time to enjoy such wins. The teams rematch Saturday night.
“We’ve got work to do,” he said.