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Wisconsin women's hockey: Badgers win WCHA tournament

The Badgers defeated Bemidji State 4-0 to take the crown for the first time since 2011.

Wisconsin sophomore Sarah Nurse was the MVP of the WCHA Final Faceoff.
Wisconsin sophomore Sarah Nurse was the MVP of the WCHA Final Faceoff.
Nicole Haase

It's probably fair to say that the ladies of the Wisconsin women's hockey team have a short list of things they hoped to accomplish this season. As always, they want a National Championship. A Frozen Four berth. More personally for these players, the list would include beating Minnesota, winning the semi-final game at the WCHA Final Faceoff and then winning the conference tournament.

The ladies are well on their way to conquering some demons. They tied Minnesota in early January, beat North Dakota on Saturday in the Final Faceoff semi-finals - something they hadn't done the previous two season - and Sunday they downed Bemidji State 4-0 to take their first WCHA Final Faceoff since 2011.

With the exception of redshirt senior Brittany Ammerman, no one on the Badgers roster has won a WCHA or national title. It's an untenable situation for the seniors, who are looking to close their careers at Wisconsin on a high note.

Last weekend, senior Katy Josephs voiced their opinion: "For me and the seniors, especially, we’ve lost three times now in the first round of [the Final Faceoff] so going out there, we really want to win. And we’ve made the really clear to the [underclassmen] that it’s not an option for us to lose this year. We want to win."

The Badgers will start their march to the Frozen Four next Saturday, March 14 at LaBahn Arena. The Badger men's hockey team has a home game scheduled for March 14, so look for the women to host an afternoon game at LaBahn.

Early indications are that Wisconsin will play Quinnipiac. The Bobcats lost their ECAC conference semi-final game to eventual league champion Harvard, but will likely get an at-large bid. The NCAA women's hockey selection will take place Saturday night at 7 pm est. Straight seeding of the tournament would have Wisconsin facing Boston University, but it's likely the selection committee would avoid the intra-conference matchup of #6 Quinnipiac at #3 Harvard. Switching Quinnipiac and Boston University would be the easy solution and wouldn't change any of the other selection criteria, so it's the likely move.

(EDIT: The Badgers will face Boston University, winners of the Hockey East tournament)

The WCHA Final Faceoff was dominated by sophomore Sarah Nurse, who finished the weekend with four goals and two assists, earning her the tournament MVP.

Nurse opened the scoring on Saturday with a cross-body, long-distance wrister that just sniped into the net glove side and top shelf. The goal was set up by a great pass from sophomore Sydney McKibbon. McKibbon was surrounded by Beavers on the near side by saw a lane to slot the puck to Nurse, who was skating into the zone. The entire Bemidji team was in the defensive zone, but with one perfectly placed pass and an even more perfectly placed shot, Nurse and McKibbon gave the Badgers the lead.

Nurse struck for the Badgers second goal when she put home a rebound from a long-distance Kim Drake shot. The puck bounced off the back boards and Bemidji goalie Britni Mowat's skate. Nurse was perpendicular to the goal line, but managed to get the puck to sneak behind Mowat and into the net.

Senior assistant captain Karley Sylvester scored the Badgers' third goal with just 2.4 seconds left in the second period when she was the one to finally put a bouncing puck behind Mowat. It was a scrum in the crease and Sylvester found the puck.

Nurse showed some great instincts when she and senior Katarina Zgraja combined for the final goal. She and Zgraja streaked 2-on-1 to the net and the Bemidji defender allowed Nurse to flick a soft pass to Zgraja, who had a wide-open shot on Mowat and the net.

Sophomore goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens stopped all 15 shots she faced, earning her 14th shutout of the season. That ties a Wisconsin school record for most shutouts in a season held by Jessie Vetter that she set in the 2008-09 season.