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Wisconsin women’s hockey: Badgers sweep Bemidji; Desbiens stands alone

Ann-Renée Desbiens’ 44th shutout sets a new NCAA career record.

Nicole Haase

MADISON — With a 6-0 win Sunday vs. Bemidji State, Wisconsin goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens toppled the last record in her sights. After a spectacular junior campaign that saw her break program and NCAA records for single-season shutouts, goals against average and save percentage, as well as a new record for scoreless minutes at 543:53, Desbiens topped Minnesota’s Noora Räty career shutout record just 12 games into her senior season.

Desbiens, who is not one for the spotlight, is relieved to no longer have to talk about breaking or chasing records, though she admits this one, that shows a body of work, is especially rewarding.

“It just shows how I’ve improved throughout my years here and I still have a lot of work to do,” she said. “I’m not done.”

Coach Mark Johnson spoke of the world-class goalies that played at Wisconsin before Desbiens and the legacy she was inheriting.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a couple of good goaltenders,” Johnson said. “The bar was set high when she came in and took over. She’s reached up and now gone over it. It’s a big accomplishment.”

This weekend’s shutouts come on the heels of a series in Minnesota State where Desbiens took a hit to the head, meaning she wasn’t even sure if she’d play this weekend.

“It was challenging this week,” Desbiens said. “I’m happy with how it turned out. It is a mental victory for me. I’m definitely proud of how it happened.”

While Desbiens was the main event, Sarah Nurse made her own mark as she scored twice to tally her 100th point as a Badger, making her the 22nd in program history to reach that plateau.

With Annie Pankowski winning a gold with Team USA at the Four Nations tournament and Sam Cogan out with an injury, the Badgers had to shake up their lines. Freshman Abby Roque and Alexis Mauermann were paired with Sophia Shaver, and they found immediate chemistry. Roque scored twice on Sunday and added three assists on the weekend. Mauermann, who came into the weekend without a goal yet in her career, lit the lamp three times. For her part, Shaver had four assists in two games.

Nurse is second in the country with 11 goals scored and eighth overall with 16 points. It’s been a bit of a breakout year for Nurse, who seems to have gained the confidence to match her skill set.

“I just came in (thinking) this is my last year,” Nurse said. “I want to have a big impact and ultimately I want to win a national championship.”

Wisconsin forward Sarah Nurse fires a shot at Bemidji State goaltender Erin Deters.
Nicole Haase

Nurse opened the scoring with her third short-handed goal of the season, the most in the NCAA. Sophia Shaver hit her in stride with a long pass directly on the tape and Nurse popped the water bottle on top of Erin Deters’s net with a gorgeous top-shelf shot to give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.

The fastbreaks are something Nurse has struggled with over the course of her career, so it’s been especially rewarding to see her finish a play like the one she scored on.

“I think a lot of times, growing up, I was a very good skater, not so good with the puck,” Nurse said. “I think as I’ve come in to my own these past few years, I think I’ve been much better with things like that.”

Less than three minutes later, Roque scored a power play goal to make it 2-0. Bemidji’s net was screened and Roque held the puck for an extra second before putting it up and over Deter’s shoulder.

Mauermann opened the second period with a rebound goal. Shaver’s shot came off Deter’s pads and sat in front of the net. Mauermann was able to clean it up and add to the Badgers’ lead.

In the third, Mikaela Gardner sent a long pass to Mauermann along the mid-ice boards. Mauermann carried it in and placed it near post over Deter’s blocker to make it 4-0.

Nurse tallied her 100th point with a beautiful play from Sydney McKibbon, who gathered a loose puck behind the net and backhanded it to the crease, where Nurse was waiting to bury it.

“It was actually really cool that Syd made that pass to me, it kind of brought it back to where it all started,” said Nurse, who’s played with McKibbbon since high school.

Roque closed out the scoring for Wisconsin with 18 seconds on the clock.

The Badgers have a bye next weekend before heading to Duluth for a two-game series.