None of the scoring woes that have plagued Wisconsin over the past few weeks were evident Saturday night as Wisconsin skated to a 4-1 victory over North Dakota in the semifinals of the WCHA playoffs.
The semifinal win was the first since 2011 for the Badgers, who had something of a point to prove after three straight Final Faceoff semifinal exits. The last two years, they'd lost to North Dakota at this stage and the Badger seniors were determined to not let that happen again.
While it's not fair to say that Wisconsin was in the driver's seat, the Badgers did seem to control the ebb and flow of the game for most of the run of play. North Dakota certainly had its chances, but another stellar showing from sophomore goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens kept the Badgers in the game.
"I think in a game like that, every single save is important," Desbiens said. "A goal can change the whole game, so you need to make sure you stay focused on every single one and stay sharp."
Wisconsin's scoring was all about power shots directly at the net. Where the Badgers had struggled with shots attempted that weren't on target in past weeks, on Saturday they left no doubt, peppering the net with purposeful, hard shots and the strategy paid off.
"I think we are really good at starting, and when we get a goal under our belt we are a really good team throughout the game, and so getting that first goal, we got it out of the way and were good to go," sophomore Sarah Nurse said.
The Badgers got on the board about halfway through the first period thanks to sophomore Mellissa Channell. Despite a bit of an odd angle, Channell sniped the puck home on a one-timer that North Dakota goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie didn't appear to see until it was too late.
Sophomore Sydney McKibbon doubled the Badgers' lead in the second period. The goal came from a great effort by senior Katy Josephs and Nurse. Josephs won a loose puck with her back to the net at the far faceoff circle. She pushed the puck to Nurse, who despite falling to the ice managed to center the puck. McKibbon put a powerful slap-shot on that and Amsley-Benzie got a glove on it, but wasn't able to stop from getting over the line.
In the third period, sophomore Jenny Ryan teed up a slapper from the point and Nurse was able to redirect it for the third goal of the night.
Nurse iced the win with an empty-net goal with 3:09 left in the game. She finished the game with two goals and two assists. Josephs and Ryan each had two assists on the night.
Wisconsin will face Bemidji State for the WCHA championship at 1 p.m. on Sunday. There's a free livestream on FastHockey.com and you can listen to the game online at TheMic921.com.