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Wisconsin women's hockey: Badgers defeat Bemidji State 3-0

Two first-period goals and a late empty-netter carried Wisconsin over Bemidji State.

MADISON -- Bemidji State's Britni Mowat and Wisconsin's Ann-Renée Desbiens entered Friday night's game ranked first and second in the country in save percentage, respectively. Desbiens is second in the country in goals against average. Mowat is third. Wisconsin was first in team defense, Bemidji was third. Something was going to have to give.

Mowat received help from her defense, who tallied 26 blocks on Wisconsin's 65 attempted shots. While frustrating for Wisconsin's high-powered top line, it was not enough as the powerful and deep Badger offense scored two first period goals and an empty netter late in the third period to win 3-0.

Desbiens recorded her fourth shutout of the season, most in the country. Wisconsin has now gone 341 minutes and 45 seconds of game time since allowing a goal in the first period of the second game against Providence. Senior Megan Miller tallied her own shutout in the second game of last weeks St. Cloud State series.

Friday was Desbiens' 21st career shutout, which puts her tied for 12th in NCAA history with former U.S. National Team goalie Molly Schaus. She leads the nation in goals against average (0.35), save percentage (.976) and win percentage (1.00).

"(Defense) starts in net," said Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson. "You move out and we have experience on the blue line. We try to eliminate scoring chances. The first period I thought we good job of that. When they did give up a few, Ann made a couple real nice saves. It’s a team effort and it’s nice to have obviously. If you don’t give up any goals, your chance of winning is pretty good."

Missing junior Sarah Nurse to illness, Wisconsin's second, third and fourth lines were mixed up -- but the new combinations paid off. Third-liners senior Rachel Jones and freshman Sam Cogan tallied the first two for the Badgers, showing a depth of talent that will serve them well as they face teams who can match-up with Wisconsin's top line.

Jones scored her third goal of the season about halfway through the first period when she redirected freshman Mikaela Gardner's attempt.

Cogan made it 2-0 on a beauty of a shot from the left side (pictured above). The Badgers showcased some pretty passing and puck-handling to get Cogan the puck in the left circle and she teed it up and put it in the net.

"I give credit to Jenny (Ryan) for that (goal). She had good vision and I was just in the right spot and was able to bury it," said Cogan.

Sophomore Annie Pankowski iced the game with a shot from the right side past a sliding Bemidji defender on the empty net.

It was a tough fought game, and Pankowski admitted the Beavers gave Wisconsin maybe more than they were expecting.

"I think that they came out a little stronger than we were anticipating...They definitely gave us a good game, and we were expecting it. We knew that they were coming to play and they were coming to play hard. I think it was a good test for us just to see where we stand, and I think we definitely rose to the occasion and show what we can give. Even when they pushed, we pushed back," said Pankowski.

Bemidji seemed to find a second wind in the third period, putting pressure on the Badgers. Wisconsin tends to wear opponents down, so it was something the Badgers had to adjust to.

Wisconsin handled the onslaught, and Pankowski said that will give the Badgers confidence for Saturday's game, allowing them to be proactive instead of reactive.

"It was a good team effort," Johnson said.

"I learned a little bit more about our club. I take a lot of good things away from this win...They’re a worthy opponent and they’ve got, obviously, an outstanding goalie. As you saw tonight, they make it tough to get pucks to the net. They block a lot of shots. It’s a nice victory for our girls."