With a 2-0 win over the Harvard Crimson in front of a sold out LaBahn Arena, the Wisconsin Badgers advanced to the seventh Frozen Four in program history on Saturday night.
"We’re certainly happy with the effort and our game tonight. It’s never easy to win this quarterfinal game. I thought we came out with good energy, played very well and earned a hard-fought victory," said head coach Mark Johnson.
It was non-special teams scoring that won the game (the Badgers were 0-for-3 on the man advantage), but the play you're going to want to watch over and over is senior goalie Alex Rigsby's third period flying stick save. The save had the entire LaBahn crowd on their feet, bowing in Rigsby's direction. That save kept Harvard off the board with more than half of the third period to go and kept the momentum on Wisconsin's side.
Rigsby described the play from her view: "I got caught up with someone in front of the net. I saw the puck get passed across and the girl was just taking the shot. It was a desperation save. I just used that hand-eye coordination, I just dropped it down with my stick. I was lucky enough to have it pop into my glove as well. It was definitely a lucky and desperation save. It’s rewarding when you see the players face, as well, who got denied."
It was Rigsby's 100th career win, which ties her for second on the all-time NCAA list with Mercyhurst's Hillary Pattenden. She holds the Wisconsin record for most career wins.
Wisconsin got on the board early in the first and that helped ease off the pressure they'd been carrying from their failure to score in losses to North Dakota and Minnesota State-Mankato over the final three games of the season.
Redshirt junior Brittany Ammerman carried the puck down the far boards toward the side netting, pulling the attention of Harvard goalie and fellow Patty Kazmaier top-10 finalist Emerance Maschmeyer. She fed the puck to junior Blayre Turnbull, who put it home and gave the Badgers the lead.
According to Ammerman, she's been practicing for just such a play in preparation for facing Harvard.
"I’d been told that there goalie comes out pretty far, so all week I’d been asking Ann-Renée (Desbiens) to kind of play like her at the end of practice and I said if I get a two on one, what do you think will happen if I drop my shoulder and kind of look like I would take the shot and (Ann) said she would probably commit to you, so I did that and then the D just kind of let Blayre go. I saw Blayre and I heard her so I just put it right on her tape. To be honest I kind of blacked out right after that happened and then I heard the crowd go wild so I was like 'Guess we scored.' It was exciting, my heartbeat was through the roof for most of the game after that."
Ammerman and Turnbull celebrate the Badgers' first goal.
Turnbull admitted that scoring early was something of a relief and that she and Ammerman had talked about the need to get points on the board early all week.
The assist was Ammerman's 100th point as a Badger. She is just the 19th player in program history to reach that mark.
Katy Josephs received a gift when Kelly Jaminski's slapshot was deflected onto her stick while she was alone in front of the crease. She scored the second goal by putting the puck five-hole on Maschmeyer.
Mashmeyer was a bit of an unknown heading into the game. Despite her Patty Kaz nomination, she had been benched in conference play. Harvard coach Maura Crowell said the plan was to start Maschmeyer all along.
Wisconsin will be headed to it's seventh Frozen Four and will face familiar foe Minnesota on Friday - as of right now the teams appear to be scheduled for the 5 pm est match-up. There is no scheduled television broadcast, but the NCAA provides free webstreaming.
Wisconsin has not beat Minnesota since midway through the 2011-2012 season. As Rigsby mentioned during Fill the Bowl in mid-February, the Badgers are sick of losing to Minnesota. The Badgers played the Gophers well throughout their series this season (with the exception of the Fill the Bowl game), meaning the win isn't a given for Minnesota.
Rigsby said that Minnesota's past record doesn't matter to the Badgers as they head to Hamden, CT to face off.
"Coach says all the time 'As soon as it hits playoff time, records, they don’t exist anymore.' So I think that’s the mentality we should go into this game with. We prepared all year, this is our time. It’s going to be a great game. Being ready on Friday night, being ready for puck drop."
After the game, the team stayed on the ice to sing Varsity with the crowd and do some brief celebrating. It was a milestone win and the final game at LaBahn for the senior class.