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No. 1 Wisconsin women’s hockey splits border battle

Freshmen Britta Curl and Sophie Shirley teamed up for a pair of huge goals in game two.

MADISON — The top-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team (9–1–0) split a pair of games this weekend against No. 3 Minnesota (7–2–1) in a physical weekend at LaBahn Arena.

Freshmen Britta Curl, Sophie Shirley, and Nicole Lamantia had tremendous weekends for the Badgers, and seem to be matching the hype they brought to Madison.

The Badgers needed a split to keep themselves on the inside track in the WCHA and NCAA races. Given that they won’t play a ranked game until January, the Badgers’ split helps them keep up the momentum for the rest of the semester.

Wisconsin and Minnesota were both without top respective skaters Emily Clark and Sarah Potomak, but the Badgers and Gophers meet between two and four more times this season, so the return of Clark and Potomak for the January rematch will only ramp up the intensity.

Here is a recap of each of the games this weekend in Madison.

Game 1

The first game of the Border Battle was about as close as a hockey game can get, virtually tied in shots on goals throughout. However, the Badgers couldn’t quite get a break or capitalize on their few solid scoring chances, and they fell 1–0 to Minnesota.

The Badgers had their best chance early in the third period as sophomore Brette Pettet found herself in front of a wide-open net for a one-timer at point-blank range.

She pulled it just wide of the net, and the game remained scoreless.

That is, until Minnesota drew first blood halfway through the third period, capitalizing on a power play.

Wisconsin turned up the intensity even further in the last 10 minutes of the contest, but couldn’t quite solve MinnesotaaGoalie Alex Gulstene. Perhaps if hockey games lasted 61 minutes instead of 60, Bucky might have pulled it off, as they peppered Gulstene with quality shot after quality shot in the closing minute of play on a 6–4 power play.

Gulstene held strong, and the Gophers took round one of the border battle.

“It’s Minnesota and Wisconsin, it’s always going to come down to one or two bounces that go your way,” senior captain Annie Pankowski said. “So I think that when we can capitalize on the bounces that go our way, it’ll be lot better for us in a tight game like that.”

Game 2

In spite of getting out-shot 31–29, the Badgers defeated Minnesota 4–1 in the second game of the weekend series at LaBahn.

The Badgers came out strong to start the second game of the series, earning an early power play and the first five shots of the game. However, after 10 minutes of superb hockey, the Gophers began controlling the puck more and the Badgers’ chances diminished.

Then freshman Shirley saw an opportunity, one-timing a pass from fellow freshman Curl. Similar to Pettet’s opportunity in Saturday’s game, the left half of the net was wide open, but Shirley made the Gophers pay.

However, before Phil could wind up the “We Want More” chant, the Gophers found an opportunity during a sloppy line change. Minnesota senior Kelly Pannek put a shot just left of goal, got the rebound, and worked her way around the net. She caught Campbell out of position, who was turned around looking for the puck. Before Campbell could get reset, Gopher freshman Emily Oden returned the one-time favor to tie the game back up.

Similar to how Wisconsin dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, the second period belonged solely to the Badgers.

Unfortunately, they could only manage one goal, but it was a beauty brought to you off the stick of Natalie Buchbinder, who beat Minnesota goalie Sydney Scobee blocker-side.

Wisconsin pestered Scobee the entire second period, who kept the game in check. The Badgers’ 14–5 shot advantage in the second period, none of them cheap looks, could have led to a much bigger lead for Bucky going into the third period.

“That was our best period of the five,” head coach Mark Johnson said.

With Wisconsin holding a 2–1 lead going into the third period, Minnesota decided it was its turn to put the pressure on Wisconsin goalie Kristen Campbell.

“That was the most shots I’ve faced in my career here,” Campbell said.

And Campbell came up with an astounding 18 saves in the third period; none of them were cheapies. But they did include a critical save using her facemask.

“Oh, I should have caught that,” Campbell joked.

Not only did Campbell make a dozen-and-a-half stellar saves, she also calmed down her defense and directed their alignment.

“She keeps us calm back there, tells us what’s going on,” Buchbinder said.

While the Badgers only had five shots in the third period, Shirley returned the favor she got from Curl in the first period. Shirley found Curl wide-open in the slot and Curl buried a one-timer of her own.

Up 3–1, the Gophers pulled their goalie, which led Pankowski to add the final tally of the game, an emptynetter from center ice.

The Badgers head on the road to Mankato to face Minnesota State next weekend. They will return to Madison in three weeks to face Bemidji State.