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Wisconsin women's hockey: Badgers 1, Minnesota 1

Minnesota took the shootout to earn an extra point in the WCHA standings.

Emily Clark and Jenny Ryan celebrate Clark's goal on Saturday
Emily Clark and Jenny Ryan celebrate Clark's goal on Saturday
Nicole Haase

MINNEAPOLIS -- Call it a moral victory, but the Wisconsin women's hockey snapped losing streak more than two years old to Minnesota on Saturday afternoon when it tied the Gophers 1-1.

The Gophers won the resulting shootout to gain an extra point in the WCHA standings. Wisconsin is currently leading the WCHA with 41 points, but Minnesota is right on the Badgers' heels with 40 points and will play two more conference games than Wisconsin before the season is out.

Wisconsin was the better team on the ice on Sunday, though the outcome wasn't the one the Badgers were hoping for.

Despite failing to come away with the preferred outcome, Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson was happy with how his team performed and knows it bodes well for the rest of their season.

"We played well when you look at the 60 minutes and the effort we put in," he said. "We did a lot of good things and they found a way to tie it up. We played good. I was very happy with the effort. I think we deserve better than we came away with.

"If we play the next 12 games like we played today, we’ll be sitting pretty good. It’s just a matter of playing those 12 games."

The teams were evenly matched through the first period, feeling each other out while neither was able to establish momentum or rhythm. The Badgers had similar difficulty putting pucks on net as they had in Saturday's game -- they fired 24 shots while just six of them were on goal. Minnesota kept them stymied with 11 blocks.

Wisconsin seemed to take the reins in the second period, though, peppering Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille and finding a more accurate path to the net.

The Badgers weren't able to get the break-through goal until just 22 seconds remained in the period. Freshman Emily Clark's goal energized the Badgers, who came out for the third period, controlling possession, keeping the Gophers from establishing anything lasting in the zone and generally being pesky.

Once again, Minnesota found a way to score on a bouncing puck as a shot was popped in the air and flew across the goal mount from one of Desbiens' shoulders to the other. As Johnson put it, no one ever actually shot the puck, but somehow it made it into the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1.

Johnson switched up all three of his top offensive lines, looking to shake up Saturday night's stagnant offense. Sylvester joined freshman Clark and Annie Pankowski. Senior Katy Josephs re-joined with former line mates Brittany Ammerman and Blayre Turnbull and the speedy freshman Baylee Wellhausen was put with sophomores Sarah Nurse and Sydney McKibbon.

"We had the freshman together last night and they played OK, but sometimes if you mix things up and change things, it focuses people up and changes things and we needed to do some things today that we didn’t do yesterday and I thought they were able to do that," Johnson said. "We just didn’t get the second goal we needed.

"But I thought they did a good job managing the puck and taking care of the puck better today than we did yesterday."

An extremely physical game, it featured even fewer whistles than Saturday and more complaining from fans and writers of both sides. Sophomore Mellissa Channell left the game in the second period after getting checked to the ice. That play received no call, though Channell herself was whistled for a penalty shortly thereafter. Her penalty was served by Katy Josephs, and Channell did not return to the ice.

The Badgers were already short a defenseman as freshman Maddie Rolfes is unavailable as she recovers from an appendectomy she had over the winter break. The short bench came into play late in the game when the Badgers were forced to kill a penalty in the overtime period and then couldn't pull their goalie for an extra skater during an offensive zone face-off. Johnson admitted he didn't think he had someone rested enough to put out there to execute the play at the time.

Looking ahead, the Badgers will face Bemidji State and defending national champion Clarkson at LaBahn Arena over the next two weeks. Bemidji is the surprise of the WCHA this season. It defeated and tied Minnesota in a series on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, and swept North Dakota two weeks later.

Bemidji also lost four games to Ohio State, one game to St. Cloud State and one to Lindenwood. The team is streaky, but dangerous.

Clarkson is the unknown. It's clearly not as strong as it was last season, when it peaked as the season ended, but can't be overlooked.