MINNEAPOLIS -- New season, same result as the Wisconsin women's hockey team was ousted from the Frozen Four Friday night with a 3-1 loss to rival Minnesota. The Badgers have not beaten the Gophers in their last 16 meetings.
Minnesota ousted Wisconsin from the 2014 Frozen Four by a score of 5-3.
The Badgers out-shot the Gophers 35-23 and looked to be the better team, but they could not pull out the win. It's a frustrating cycle for the Badgers and a sour way for the senior class to end their Wisconsin tenure.
Despite controlling most of the first and second periods, the Badgers managed just one goal when NCAA Rookie of the Year, freshman Annie Pankowski one-timed a centering pass from freshman Emily Clark less than a minute into the second period. Clark was spectacular on the face-off, out-muscling Minnesota's Kelly Pannek to win eight straight before the Gophers were forced to change their configuration. Minnesota started matching their top line of Patty Kazmaier top three finalist Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi and Maryanne Menefee against Pankowski, Clark and Baylee Wellhausen.
That change created an imbalance the Badgers couldn't seem to keep up with. Minnesota's first goal came after the Gophers mounted two quick breaks into their offensive zone. Both resulted in a flurry in front of the net and on the second trip Brandt put back a rebound.
"Similar to our game last Saturday, when you’re playing against world class athletes, at the end of the game you don’t want to see them on the score sheet. If they’re not on the score sheet, you have a pretty good chance of winning. It just seems like the past two years, Hannah always seems to play a strong game against us. Rachel Ramsey plays a strong game against us. Cameranesi plays a strong game against us. Their elite players, their go-to players seem to come up big in the big moments. When they needed a boost in today’s game, Hannah stepped up and scored then she set up a couple of more plays. That’s why she’s so special and that’s one of the reasons that for three years they’ve been pretty tough to defeat, especially for us," said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson.
Minnesota took the lead two mninutes later when Megan Wolfe teed up a slap shot from center ice at the blue line. Menefee tipped the puck past Badger goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens, who never saw it.
Wisconsin had a chance to even the score when Gopher goalie Amanda Leveille left a rebound sitting in the crease and the back door open. Pankowski lunged for it, but Leveille made the save. That combined with a power play goal from Pannek a few minutes later put the game out of reach for Wisconsin.
Gopher coach Brad Frost said he told his team that if they scored a power play goal against Wisconsin, they would win and the prophesy proved true.
Wisconsin failed to produce much in the way of a threat in the third period. They took their timeout with 3:22 to go and pulled Desbiens, but ran a controlled power-play-esque look, seeming to try to hard to find the perfect shot. Minnesota packed it in in front of Leveille, putting just three shots on goal in the third period, leaving little room for Wisconsin to find purchase.
"That power play goal is always a tough one to take in a high intensity game like we had here and the crowd kind of shut us down a bit. That’s the game of hockey, it’s going to be up and down and it’s going to be up and down. It’s going to be our ability to respond and it didn’t happen how we wanted it to happen today," said Pankowski.
The Badgers controlled play for much of the first two periods and Frost attributed it to his trying to make line match ups and them falling short.
"We had some match ups that we wanted, line-wise, early on and they weren’t working. Starting in the second period, once we put Hannah’s line on the Clark-Pankowski line, the tide turned a little bit...Wisconsin is really, really good. They're playing unbelievable hockey and it took us a while to get our legs," said Frost.
It's just the beginning for a very talented young core for the Badgers. The emergence of Pankowski and Clark combined with the on-going talent of sophomore Sydney McKibbon and Sarah Nurse will provide a solid backbone of talent for Wisconsin for a few years to come.
"I think in the locker room you could see on the faces of everyone, even the seniors, that this was not enough for anyone. This is going to be that bitter taste that’s in our mouth that’s going to drive us next year," said Pankowski.