ST. CHARLES, Mo. — All season long, the goal for Wisconsin women’s hockey senior class has been simple: get to the championship game no matter what it takes.
As it turned out, a pair of those seniors willed their team to that goal, although only one of the efforts would have been predicted before the evening began.
The predicted effort came from goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens, who pitched yet another shutout for the Badgers, her 17th of the season.
The unexpected effort came from defenseman Mellissa Channell, who’s game-winning goal was just her third of the season and 11th of her four-year career.
Though this level of play has become the norm for Desbiens, Friday evening’s 1-0 shutout over Boston College was far from her routine effort.
The Eagles peppered Desbiens with shots throughout the first period, forcing her to make 11 saves in the first 10 minutes, and 22 for the game.
Keeping focused has been a concern with a lack of action and shots in some games this season, but that was not the case in the semifinal.
“It actually helps to get a lot of shots coming at you to get you engaged,” Desbiens said.
She admitted that it was a different feeling than many games this year, where the Badgers normally keep the ice tilted away from their world-class goaltender. The team’s high-powered offense has outscored opponents by 84 goals this season, and have outshot their opponents by nearly 1,000 shots throughout the year.
Whereas the high level of play in goal is expected from Desbiens, the opposite could be said of the game’s lone goal scorer.
Channell, a senior defenseman from Oakville, Ont., had not scored in game since early January. Ironically, that goal also came in St. Charles, the home of this year’s Frozen Four.
After scoring what ended up being the winner for Wisconsin, Channell jokingly said, “I don’t score much.”
She added that the ultimate goal of hockey is to score, that it ultimately doesn’t matter who puts the puck in the back of the net.
And although the admits she didn’t know what the biggest goal of her career was up to this point, that debate has all but ended.
With the deadlocked game destined for overtime with less than 20 seconds remaining, Channell’s shot from the left point found its way through traffic in front of the net.
The goal allowed Wisconsin’s senior class to accomplish its mission. The game may not have followed the script of many Badger victories this season, but to Desbiens, Channell and the rest of the team, there is only one number that matters: Wisconsin 1, Boston College 0.
After three consecutive losses in the semifinal round, the six seniors will finally get a taste of that long-awaited championship game, and they now have a new goal in mind: winning an NCAA championship.