DULUTH, Minn. — Four the fourth straight tournament, Minnesota had its quest for a championship ended by Wisconsin. The Badgers (27-7-3, 20-5-3 WCHA) continued their recent mastery of the Gophers, improving to 12-2-2 in their head-to-head meetings over the last three seasons.
Jinnelle Zaugg got her stick on a puck off of an offensive-zone draw just ahead of a Minnesota defender during a third-period power play. The deflected puck eluded Kim Hanlon and gave the defending champions the deciding goal in a 4-3 victory.
I dont think we played overall particularly well, but the girls dug deep, Jessie [Vetter] made the saves when she needed to, and we scored some timely goals, Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. Certainly the fourth one was probably the biggest one of the game, being the game winner.
Her goal came less than five minutes after the Gophers (27-6-4, 21-5-2) had battled back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game on a goal by Jen Schoullis.
The fourth one was just reading their players, Zaugg said. They were kind of stepping back on the faceoff and [I was] trying to take advantage of that. The puck popped right in the right slot, and I have a long reach.
Zaugg also scored the first goal of the game for the Badgers back in the first period, two and a half minutes after the Gophers had opened the scoring.
The first goal was kind of just a ‘lets throw it on net and hope theres a rebound for Duggan coming in,’ and it went in “- surprise, she said.
Its a battle back and forth between Minnesota and us. When theres goals scored back and forth, you can take the goal two ways. You can either let that effect how youre going to play, or you can use it as, I want to get that goal back and score another goal.
Erika Lawler put Wisconsin up 3-1 with goals both early and late in the second period.
Hilary Knight jumped on a turnover behind Minnesotas goal and found Lawler coming down the slot to give the Cardinal & White their first lead. That lead doubled on a play where the puck, Hanlon, and a couple more bodies all wound up in the Minnesota goal.
I hit Angie [Keseley] with a pass in the slot, Lawler said. She tried to slip it through the defenseman, and I was just going to the net, I didnt think it was going to get through. But it just snuck through, and I just tipped it.
Gigi Marvin responded for Minnesota with her second goal of the game to reduce the deficit to 3-2 before the second period ended.
Something that really helped out in tonights game was Gigi and Westy teaming up to get another goal right away to put us within one goal of Wisconsin at the point, Minnesota co-captain Bobbi Ross said. We never had a doubt that wed be able to come back.
I like the way were battling back when were behind “- its not an easy thing to do. Hopefully that will really help us out later, but if were never behind again, thats fine by me, too.
Both of Marvins goals were highlight worthy. On the first, she flew down the right side and snapped a quick shot low on Vetters stick side.
Just putting the puck on net -” we know Vetters a good goalie; weve seen her many times now, Marvin said. I just had my head up, shot, and the spot was open, so I hit it.
On the second, she spun and got a stick on Emily Wests shot as it went past, changing both the pucks speed and direction.
The games final minute had its share of drama. With Hanlon pulled for an extra attacker, Lawler carried into the Gopher zone and shot at the empty net, but Rachael Drazan dove to knock the puck wide with her outstretched stick and keep her team alive.
Whitney Graft succeeded in getting the puck past Vetter one last time with only 00.1 showing on the clock, but there was no controversy when referee Dan Lick immediately waved the goal off.
From my view, it was pretty obvious that she caught it and threw it in, Vetter said. It was very impressive that she got it down and in that quick with 0.1 left, but I knew she got it with her hand.
Marvin shot the puck from the boards to set up Grafts final attempt.
The whole game, we were just trying to get traffic in front of the net and throw the puck on net, Marvin said. So thats all we were planning to do. The clock only showed 16 seconds when we faced off, so there wasnt too much that I could do with it.
When asked if she saw the puck go in and thought there was a chance the goal would count, she replied, I saw it go in -” I didnt think there was a chance.
We tried to tell him that it hit her elbow, Ross said.
I thought Lick did a good job of being consistent all the way through for both sides, she said. Its nice that the reffing wasnt a deciding factor in a game that was as hard fought by both teams as this one was.
The net result was all too familiar for Minnesota.
We play Wisconsin so many times and its frustrating losing to them, Marvin said.
I thought it was a great hockey game, said Gopher coach Brad Frost. Both teams obviously gave their all. Unfortunately, one team has to lose, and that was us tonight.
Its a tough loss for sure, but we know weve got a lot more to play for, Ross said. Were going to have to work extra hard to makes sure that when next week rolls around that we feel nothing like this.
Its easier to put aside a tough loss when that defeat does not end your season.
Certainly by the sounds of things and the way the NCAA has done it, were going to be seeing an eastern team, whether its home or away, Frost said. I think were looking forward to it. Its always nice to be able to play some teams that you havent faced and see what you have in comparison to them.
His counterpart behind the Wisconsin bench also looked ahead to next weeks action.
It comes down to the match ups more than anything, Johnson said. I wouldnt be opposed to being on the road. The positive and the good thing is youre still playing. Youre one of eight teams and you have a chance to win a national championship. And I like the way were playing.
One Badger who is playing well is Vetter, looking like her usual stingy self as March rolls along.
Ive been tested a couple more times this year, she said. I look forward to it; I like to see more shots, and just have a chance to help my team out.
Based on the firepower Minnesota-Duluth displayed in defeating St. Cloud State, she figures to get plenty of chances to do just that.
Weve played Duluth four times, and all four games have been extremely close, Johnson said. I would anticipate tomorrows game to be typical of the way the two teams have played over the last three or four years.
Its tough to get these chances, but were certainly looking forward to tomorrows contest.