MADISON, Wis. — Many of the least pleasant days of Noora Räty’s career at Minnesota have come versus Wisconsin. Fittingly enough, the Badgers were part of one of her biggest career highlights.
The top-ranked Gophers (26-0-0, 20-0-0-0 WCHA) beat No. 8 Wisconsin 5-1 on Sunday, and the victory brought Räty to the century mark in wins for her Minnesota career, tying former Mercyhurst goaltender Hillary Pattenden for the NCAA record.
“It feels great,” Räty said. “I’ve been part of four great teams now, and I think 100 wins tells how good we have been during my four years here. I really don’t celebrate ties, so I definitely want to break that next weekend.”
While some might think that all the records would be a distraction for her team, the goaltender thinks the diversion may help.
“When you’ve been winning so much, you need to find something that you get excited about, and this is something that we got excited [to do] today,” Räty said. “I just love playing under the pressure and when there is something on the line.”
Minnesota scored the odd goals in the first period, getting on the board seven minutes in when Becky Kortum picked off a Badgers player’s pass in her offensive zone and snapped off a wrist shot into the top-right corner.
“My two linemates did a great job with their forecheck,” Kortum said. “We were running a two-three, and I was third in the zone, so I had the advantage of seeing what they were going to do. The defenseman [telegraphed] her pass, and I got lucky and picked it off and it went in.”
Against a goalie as talented as Wisconsin’s Alex Rigsby, it behooves a team to get on the board versus her before she gets settled into a groove.
“Rigsby is incredible, so any time you get something past her, it’s a big feat,” Kortum said. “I just saw her glove hand sag, so I decided to take advantage of it.”
Madison Packer drew Wisconsin (15-9-2, 11-9-2-2 WCHA) even on the power play, winning a battle behind the net, walking out front and beating Räty inside the far post.
The Gophers answered with a power-play goal of their own. Hannah Brandt stuffed in a rebound of a Megan Bozek shot.
“Scoring first again was big for us,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “Our power play was very good. Probably the biggest thing for us was staying out of the penalty box the last two periods and not giving a very good team any more opportunities than they need.”
Kelly Terry doubled the Minnesota lead in the second period when she took a pass from Kortum and beat Rigsby high.
“I’m lucky to have her on my line; she has great speed,” Kortum said. “She talked to me and I just dished it to her and she had a nice ripper high glove.”
Minnesota blue liners added some insurance in the third period when Rachel Ramsey and Bozek connected from long range. Amanda Kessel and Brandt earned assists on each, part of three-point games for the duo.
“First time that we’ve swept Wisconsin at their place since 2003, and a full series since 2000 or something like that,” Frost said. “Just a phenomenal weekend of hockey by our kids, and they continue to gut it out and continue to play really well.”
“Even when it’s 3-1 and you start the third period and the first five, six, seven shifts are pretty good and you create some energy and you create some opportunities, goals go a long way, especially when you’re playing at home,” Wisconsin’s Mark Johnson said. “If you can make it 3-2, it’s a whole different ballgame the rest of the period. They come down and the first shot goes in the net and makes it 4-1, and at that point, the hill is pretty difficult to climb up.”
The Badgers kept the game fairly even over the first 20 minutes despite trailing. Outside of the opening minutes of the third period, they were unable to generate much over the final two frames.
“They came at us hard in the second period,” Johnson said. “We didn’t respond very well, similar to Friday’s game, and those are things that we have to continue to work on. Get stronger, take care of the puck, because when you make mistakes against a good team like that, generally, they’re going to capitalize and you’re going to get punished.”
Wisconsin is off for a week before traveling to St. Cloud State for a series with crucial league points at stake.
“It’s like taking a test,” Johnson said. “How’d you do on your test? Well, today we didn’t do very well on our test so we’ve got to go study some more and work at it and continue to progress.”
Räty gets the chance to better the NCAA mark next weekend when she and her team host Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers’ other main rival.
“Two biggest rivalries, and they’re both healthy rivalries,” Räty said. “We have a long history against those teams, so good weekends for me and for our team.”