MADISON – – It was the toughest test they’d faced at home all season, but the No. 1 Badgers responded with three unanswered goals in the final 26 minutes to beat No. 7 Minnesota 4-3.
The Gophers came out strong, scoring twice in the first period and taking that 2-0 lead into the period break. Wisconsin, which is now undefeated over the last 27 games at LaBahn Arena, hadn’t allowed more than one goal in any of their first 13 home games and had only suffered a two goal deficit two other times this season – last week at Minnesota-Duluth and two weeks ago at Ohio State.
“That was super satisfying. Coming back from a 3-1 deficit is great for our team, because now we know, if we ever find ourselves in that situation again, we can definitely come back,” said Sam Cogan.
It was as perfect a start as the Gophers could have wanted. Minnesota had struggled in the first period in January – they had just two goals in the first frame over their seven games after the winter break, but they seem to have found the cure. They scored two goals in the opening period in each of their games two weeks ago against St. Cloud State and had two more tonight.
Sydney Baldwin opened the scoring on the Gophers’ second shot of the game. Wisconsin had a power play and was holding possession and getting looks, but could not put one in the back of the net. Baldwin’s floating shot beat Campbell to put Minnesota up 1-0.
She also tallied the Gophers second goal when a shot from out wide deflected out front. Baldwin put it back on net and Campbell was screened. The puck tucked right between her skate and the post.
Cogan put Wisconsin on the board just 2:03 into the second with a rebound goal. Brette Pettet put a shot on net from the far circle and the rebound came right to Cogan who was crashing the net and had a wide open back door. She roofed the shot to bring the Badgers within one.
But Minnesota responded quickly with a beauty of a slapshot from Grace Zumwinkle that Kristin Campbell just plain misplayed to make it 3-1. Wisconsin looked to limit the damage, as the Gophers are unbeaten this season when scoring four or more goals, but are a combined 8-8-2 when scoring three goals or fewer. Minnesota averages 4.05 goals per game in their wins, but just 1.875 goals per game in their losses.
The Badgers narrowed the gap once again on a goal from Cogan. Pettet receive a puck in the middle of the zone, but missed the initial shot. She was able to get the puck towards the net and a scrum ensured. Cogan crashed and was able to bury the rebound to make it 3-2.
It was Cogan’s first multi-goal game this season.
Claudia Kepler tied the game at three just :32 into the third period on the power play. Baldwin had been called for a checking penalty when she took Cogan down on a breakaway in the final minute of the second period. Once again, the shot came from outside and Kepler was able to bury her own rebound, from her knee, as she crashed the net.
It was Kepler that put the Badgers ahead with just under six minutes to go in the game. She took a pass from Abby Roque and in an almost carbon-copy of the goal former Badger Sarah Nurse scored for Canada to win the game against Team USA two days ago, went near post, top shelf, over Peters’ shoulder to give Wisconsin the 4-3 lead.
The Badgers, who are a relatively young team, have faced little adversity this season. Kepler, a team captain, was happy with how the team responded to the adversity.
““That was amazing, it really was awesome. After that last goal, I just thought about how I was really proud of our team. The way we fought. The way we battled. Coming back from down 2-0, then 3-1, we just slowly worked our way back and just continued to compete all game,” she said.
This is the third one-goal loss the Gophers have suffered at the hand of the Badgers so far this year.
“We could have won. We probably should have won, up two goals twice. They’re finding ways to win and we’re not and that’s been the difference,” said coach Brad Frost. “We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to win this one, but we’ll regroup and come back tomorrow.”
It was a struggle of a game for Campbell, who was leading the country with a 1.12 goals against average and .944 save percentage coming into Friday’s game. She gave up three goals on fifteen shots and will look to recover for Saturday’s series finale.
These two teams will face each other again at 3:00 pm central on Saturday to close out the regular season.