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Wisconsin women's hockey: Badgers harness Huskies 3-0

Junior goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens recorded her 13th shutout in 25 games played.

Sam Cogan takes the puck down the ice on the way to giving the Badgers a 2-0 lead
Sam Cogan takes the puck down the ice on the way to giving the Badgers a 2-0 lead
Nicole Haase

MADISON -- It was a dicey couple of periods for the Wisconsin Badgers women's hockey team Saturday afternoon, as they were unable to put the St. Cloud State Huskies away til late in the third period. The 3-0 victory goes down as a win in the record books, but there's definitely a lot for the Badgers to improve on.

Freshman Sam Cogan iced the game for Wisconsin with 4:47 left in the game and junior Sarah Nurse added an empty-netter with 1:14 left in the game.

St. Cloud goalie Katie Fitzgerald played a stellar game, causing fits for the usually prolific Badger offense and her blue line added ten blocks.

Sophomore Emily Clark got the Badgers on the board first just 3:03 into the game. She brought the puck around the back of the net and her centering pass deflected off a St. Cloud players's skate and in the net.

Wisonsin head coach Mark Johnson said he had told his team that scoring in the first part of the first period would be important and the team delivered. Unfortunately, they weren't able to do much else after that goal. Johnson diplomatically called the game a learning experience for his team.

Clark's goal proved to be the only scoring for more than two periods as the Badgers peppered Fitzgerald but were unable to get the puck through. St. Cloud's defenders were crucial as they clogged the front of the net and kept Wisconsin from finding shooting lanes and opportunities at rebounds. Fitzgerald stopped multiple point-blank shots from the Badgers, including multiple breakaways. The WCHA is a who's who of top goaltenders and as Fitzgerald showed on Saturday, they can make or break a team.

The Badgers allowed St. Cloud to hang around, making for a much more tense third period than it should have been. The Huskies did not have double digit shots until halfway through the final frame.

Where in year's past teams might have thought they could rest a bit against the team's in the bottom-half of the WCHA standings, Johnson said that's no longer the case.

"Usually what you find with the parity that’s coming into our league is that the second half of the season, everybody’s got a pretty good feel, everyone’s made adjustments and improvements and with the goaltenders in our league it becomes more challenging and harder to score," Johnson said.

The Huskies finished the 2014-15 season with a record of 8-28-7. They're already 12-10-2 this year and sitting fifth in the WCHA.

In a season where near everything has gone right, it's easier to nitpick the little things. If there were an area of concern for coach Mark Johnson, it might be that his team seems to have lost their finishing touch -- a problem they dealt with over long stretches last season. The Badgers were averaging more than four goals a game entering Saturday's contest and that number was higher a few weeks ago.

Wisconsin attempted 83 shots on goal Saturday and 49 of them were on goal. Johnson teaches his team to maximize opportunities - put pucks on the net and give the team a chance to bury them in the back of the net. Clark's goal was a great example. Cogan said the players were focused on not letting that get into their heads.

"It’s a matter of being positive on the bench. Yes, the goalie is playing on her head, but we need to stay positive and just keep firing because one of them is going to go in eventually," she said.

While the offense might become frustrated in games like this, junior goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens thinks it's something the team will see more regularly.

"I think we need to get used to those games. Moving forward, we’re going to have tighter games as we wind down the season," Desbiens said.

It was career shutout number 30 for Desbiens, as well as her 60th career win. As usual, she deflected the credit for her stellar career numbers (0.97 goals against average, .952 save percentage).

"It’s not something I expected when I came here. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing players in front of me my three years here," Desbiens said. "They’re doing a great job. We spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, so I think that makes me job easier. It’s all a team effort. Collectively, it’s pretty amazing that we’ve been able to do this."

The teams return to ice on Sunday for a 12 p.m. CT series finale.