MINNEAPOLIS — Wisconsin swept all of the WCHA individual awards announced this past week. The Badgers have the top player on offense, defense, and in goal, the top rookie, and the top coach. Eight Badgers were named to the All-WCHA teams.
With that type of talent, it is almost unfair for their opponents when their lesser-known players make the scoresheet, but those players scored the key goals for the Badgers (33-1-4, 23-1-4 WCHA) in their second straight WCHA championship victory.
“You look at this weekend, and we got contributions from so many different people,” said Sara Bauer, named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “We played two different goalies. And it doesn’t even have to be a goal that you contribute.”
The Badgers got a game-winning goal from frosh Emily Kranz and an insurance marker off the stick of defenseman Rachel Bible — respectively their fifth and second goals of the year. In addition, conference Rookie of the Year Meghan Duggan notched her 19th to provide Wisconsin with a 3-1 victory over a determined squad from Minnesota (23-12-1, 17-10-1 WCHA).
“We’re excited at winning another championship,” said WCHA Coach of the Year Mark Johnson.
“Give a lot of credit to our upper classmen, our goaltenders. They committed themselves in early September to make a run at things this season.”
“It’s nice to see this group get rewarded.”
The biggest single play in earning the reward for Wisconsin came from Kranz midway through the second period. She picked up a Gopher turnover along the goal line extended, skated to the slot, and beat goaltender Kim Hanlon up top for the 2-1 lead.
“We needed to get something from our third or fourth line, and Emily scored, and that’s something that’s going to give you some energy,” Johnson said.
After the unassisted goal from Kranz, the Badgers were able to turn play in their favor.
“It was definitely a big goal for us,” said Bauer. “We’ve felt confident all year in our conditioning, and as the game wears on, we can compete at a high level.”
Minnesota came close to knotting things up later in the middle period.
“Wisconsin started breaking out, and we caught one of their passes and put it back down low,” said Bobbi Ross. “Brittany Francis was alone with one of their defenders. She took a shot, put it through the defenseman’s legs, and it went over the glove of Christine Dufour and hit the inside of the post and bounced away.”
Dufour made 16 saves in upping her personal record to 16-0-1.
Bible’s rebound goal made it 3-1 at 6:50 of the final period off of Jinelle Zaugg’s second assist of the day.
Wisconsin struck first when Meghan Duggan finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play during a 5-on-3 power play three and a half minutes into the game. Minnesota took five penalties in the first period, compared to one for the Badgers, yet the score was even headed into the intermission.
“The first ten minutes were power play and penalty kill, and we were on the power play a lot,” said Johnson. “Some nights that’s really good, but if you don’t score multiple goals on them, it can haunt you.”
Ross pulled Minnesota even at 16:53 of the first period while shorthanded.
She said, “Their defenseman overskated the puck and left it behind, and Brittany Francis made a diving stick check to get the puck away from their player. She put it in front of their net, which left me all by myself. I was able to outwait the goalie and put the puck around her.”
As has often been their downfall against Wisconsin over the past two seasons, the Gophers could not generate any additional goals.
“One of their strengths is their team defense,” said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson. “They do a great job of shutting down other teams’ offense. It’s why they’re one of the top teams in the country.”
“I thought we played two very good periods the first and the second,” said Ross. “In the third, Wisconsin started playing really defensive, so that took away a lot of our opportunities.”
The Gophers knew going into the game that a loss would end their season.
“We fell a little short today, but I was really proud of our team’s effort,” said Halldorson. “Overall this weekend was a very positive one for us in terms of how our team came together.”
Johnson thought the WCHA tournament were a good preparation for an NCAA quarterfinal meeting, which ultimately will be against the Harvard Crimson.
“The task today is certainly going to help us, because you’re playing against a team that’s obviously going to play very hungry, they’re going to play with some excitement. They’ve got a lot on the line their season’s on the line. It’ll make us a better team.”
“It wasn’t a pretty game, but as I told the team afterwards, some night’s it’s not going to be pretty.”
The latest championship trophy will look just as attractive to the Badgers and their fans.