In a Border Battle between the top two teams in the country, the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team (9-2-1 overall, 9-2-1-1-1 WCHA) and the No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-5-1 overall, 9-5-1-1 WCHA) played a bunch of extra hockey over the weekend as both games went into overtime.
Wisconsin came back from a two-goal deficit on Friday and clipped the Gophers in OT, 4-3, while on Saturday the Gophers returned the favor, clawing back from a two-goal deficit themselves and then earning the extra WCHA point by winning the shootout. For those unclear about the WCHA rules, the game is officially recorded as a tie.
Early in the second period on Friday, Grace Zumwinkle scored (her tenth goal of the season) to make the game 2-0 and it seemed like the Gophers might run away with the game in payback for the first series of the season between the long-time rivals where the Badgers dominated. However, Daryl Watts had other ideas, scoring with just over three minutes left in the middle period to cut Minnesota’s lead in half.
The momentum was short lived for UW, though, because the Gophers scored on the power play 5:52 into the third period and, despite a Caitlin Schneider goal three minutes later, looked to be able to salt the game away.
Sadly for Minnesota they did not take into account the fact that Watts and Britta Curl don’t ever want to hear the odds about how likely it is they lose.
Need someone to get the job done?— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerWHockey) February 6, 2021
Britta Curl is your girl pic.twitter.com/ZHpaoFX87D
Curl sent the game to OT with only 25 seconds remaining in regulation and then Watts had a disgusting, greasy goal to win it just two minutes into the overtime period.
After the game head coach Mark Johnson said about Watts, “She’s a good player that understands and has a lot of confidence in her abilities. The game is slower for her than it is for someone else.”
Sophie Shirley picked up her team-leading 11th assist this year on Friday night and has points in 10 of UW’s 11 games. Watts has at least a point in each of UW’s 11 games this year and has scored a goal in seven straight games.
It looked like it was going to be more heartbreak for the Gophers on Saturday in game two of the series as Shirley scored with 63 seconds left in the first period and Maddi Wheeler scored midway through the second to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead. The Gophers, however, gave UW a little taste of their own medicine and came back from a two goal deficit to send the game into OT.
Neither team could muster a threat in OT and the game, which ended officially as a tie, went to a shootout to decide which team got the bonus WCHA point. Minnesota’s Taylor Wente scored on the first shootout attempt and then no one else was able to score so the Gophers received the extra point.
“It was a good weekend. The tie was a battle and both teams played hard, the goaltender player very well,” Johnson said after the second game of the series.
Kennedy Blair did play “very well,” stopping 29 of 32 shots on Friday and 27 of 29 on Saturday. Watts saw her goal and point streak end in game two but I’m sure she doesn’t mind as UW is now unbeaten in its last six games against Minnesota with a 5-0-1 record.