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Wisconsin women's hockey: Desbiens ties NCAA shutout record as Badgers blank Minnesota State-Mankato

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Ann-Renée Desbiens tallied her 17th shutout of the season, matching the NCAA single-season record and coming on the heels of her being named a Patty Kazmaier top-10 finalist.

Nicole Haase

MADISON -- It was back to business as usual for the Wisconsin women's hockey team in Madison on Friday night. The Badgers took the first step to a berth in the WCHA Final Faceoff next weekend in Minneapolis with a 4-0 win over Minnesota State-Mankato.

The shutout was junior goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens' 17th shutout of the season, tying her with Minnesota alumna Noora Räty for most shutouts in a season. Desbiens has racked up more than 1025 minutes of scoreless time between the pipes for the Badgers.

Despite the record-breaking season she's been amassing, Desbiens is incredibly humble and continues to deflect the praise to the rest of her team.

"(The Badger defense) is definitely making my life easier back there... It’s definitely not something you cando by yourself... My teammates are doing an amazing job blocking shots, spending time in the offensive zone and making my life real easy," she said.

Her consistency between the pipes is Desbiens' biggest selling point, but coach Mark Johnson and junior defenseman Mellissa Channell said that how active Desbiens is outside her net are what make her so special and important to the Badgers' success.

"She plays the puck real well, so when they dump the puck in, she acts like a third defenseman out there and makes some good breakout plays and keeps the puck out of her end. She’s done a lot of good things, and she’s certainly playing at a high level. What she did tonight puts her in a special category, so I’m happy for her," said Johnson.

For Channell, Desbiens' movement away from the net are crucial to keeping the flow of play, as well as saving her and her fellow blueliners to save a few strides.

"It helps a lot when Ann-Renee plays the puck. Not many goaltenders in our league play the puck as much as she does and she just makes it a lot easier for the defense to get the pucks out and the forwards to keep moving with it," said Channell.

It's been home sweet LaBahn for Wisconsin this season, as they've got a 23 game home winning streak. Over the course of it, they've outscored opponents 94-12 , have tallied 10 shutouts and have only trailed for 4 minutes and 38 seconds.

Friday night was the ninth time this season that the Badgers have put 50 or more shots on goal. Though it took until the third period for the Badgers to break the game open, Johnson cited the law of averages for why it's important for his team to keep peppering the net.

"It’s natural to get frustrated, especially in the second period where you’re throwing a lot of pucks at the net. Some nights … it doesn’t want to go in. the big thing is to keep doing the things that are creating those chances. The object is to play 60 minutes and we did that tonight," he said.

Sophomore Emily Clark got the Badgers on the board, scoring a power play goal with less than two minutes in the first period. She won the face off and the ensuing scrum in front of the net left a loose puck that she was able to slot home.

"I think this time of year, it doesn’t matter whose producing or who’s getting points as long as the team is winning. It is a grittier game. Everyone’s playing for the rest of their season. You play to keep going.  It comes down to the details and bumping and grinding a bit," she said.

Wisconsin dominated the second period, but were unable to get the puck past Minnesota State goalie Brianna Quade. Despite a mid-period power play for the Mavericks, they managed just one shot on goal in the second, to the Badgers' 23.

Junior Mellissa Channell took some of the pressure off the Badgers when she scored :51 seconds into the third period. Her shot from the left circle went five hole on Quade.

Junior Sarah Nurse extended the lead a few minutes later as she and and Sydney McKibbon got a two-on-one breakaway. She made it look effortless as she kept the puck and lightly chipped it near post and over Quade's shoulder.

Cogan got in on the action with just under six to go when she took a feed across the goal mouth from Clark. Cogan took a moment to stop the puck and set up and then placed the shot midway up the far post. She was celebrating before the puck stopped ringing around the back of the net.

After a heart-breaking overtime loss in Minnesota to end the regular season, Friday night's game goes a long way to resetting the Badgers' confidence.

"Something that’s nice about hockey – the playoffs – when it starts, it doesn’t matter what you did during the regular season, you can get a fresh start and I think that’s what we did today. We just focused on what we’ve been doing well the entire season and built on that," said Desbiens.

The two teams will return to the ice at 4 pm on Saturday for the second game in the best-of-three series.