MADISON — The Wisconsin women’s hockey team took down rival Minnesota in the NCAA quarterfinal, 4-0, Saturday afternoon to advance to their fifth straight Frozen Four and 11th in program history.
The Badgers, who were ranked no. 1 in the country for much of the year, lost to the Gophers in the WCHA tournament championship game last weekend, but with Saturday’s win, took five of six from Minnesota this season.
After last weekend’s loss, the Badgers were determined not to lose again to their rival — especially on home ice.
“We wanted revenge, we were pumped up,” said sophomore Abby Roque.
When the Badgers lost to Minnesota in the WCHA tournament championship, they lost the top seed in the tournament, but maintained home-ice advantage, something that’s been more than just a saying for Wisconsin. Over the past three seasons, they’ve put together a 55-1-2 record at LaBahn Arena. The sole loss was to Minnesota last season. Saturday’s win extended their home unbeaten streak to 28 games. They’ve outscored opponents 134-18 over that stretch.
Saturday’s game was the first meeting between these two this season that was decided by more than a single goal. Wisconsin held the Gophers to their four lowest shot totals all season — including a season-low 12 shots on Saturday.
With Saturday’s shutout, the Badgers now have a streak of 182:53 shutout minutes in NCAA quarterfinal games that covers four seasons against Mercyhurst, Robert Morris, Minnesota, and Boston University. They last time they were scored on was against BU in 2014.
Badgers sophomore Presley Norby opened the scoring at 9:52 of the first period on a spectacular singular effort. She picked off a pass at the blue line and had it all the way toward Peters. Minnesota’s Kate Robinson was called for hooking on the play, keeping Norby from ever dishing the puck to Claudia Kepler, who was on the breakaway with her. Norby’s initial shot was blocked, but she buried her own rebound from her knee as she was sliding across the ice. It was a near angle, but Norby put it behind Peters to give Wisconsin the 1-0 lead midway through the first period.
The dagger came in the sixth minute of the second period when Badgers sophomore forward and WCHA Offensive Player of the Year Roque scored twice in the span of 16 seconds. On the first goal, she used some pretty stick-handling to get a window and backhand it in against Peters.
The Badgers took the puck into the zone on the ensuing faceoff. As the Gophers tried to transition, they turned the puck over at the blue line. It popped over to Roque, who took it in on her own and put a no-doubt wrister on the top shelf to make it 3-0.
“You never want to let two in a row like that, so I think that was a big momentum shift for Wisconsin. They really kind of got the knife in us at that point,” said Minnesota goalie Sidney Peters.
The goals ended a long goal-scoring drought for Roque, but she said she hadn’t even realized it.
“Our line was being really productive. As long as we’re putting up points and contributing as a line, I think we’re doing well, and I think today was my day to contribute to the goals category,” she said. “When they step out of the spotlight, you have to try to do your best to fill in those gaps, but I think the whole team has done a really good job of that. All three lines are producing. We don’t have one top line. We’re very even across the board and we’ve all stepped up.”
Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said Saturday was the best game his team had played all season, and Minnesota coach Brad Frost agreed.
“When they’re on their game — and this is the best game I’ve seen them play this year — when they’re up on their toes like that … I thought Roque was the best player on the ice, and I told her that,” said Frost. “She’s a big-time player and stepped up tonight. Even when she wasn’t scoring, she was generating, she was creating, protecting pucks.”
Wisconsin will face Colgate in the second semifinal next Friday at 7 p.m. The two teams have never played each other. Clarkson and Ohio State will meet in the first semifinal on Friday at 4 p.m. The winners of those games will play for the national championship Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m.