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Forty-four times Minnesota State faced off against Wisconsin. Forty-four times they failed to defeat to the Badgers. Consider time 45 the charm.
The Mavericks scored three goals on their first four shots, before holding off a late Wisconsin comeback for a 5-3 upset victory, Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center.
â€œWell weâ€™ve never beat Wisconsin in our history and we wanted to (break that streak),â€ Minnesota State freshman forward Lauren Zrust said. â€œBut with the end of season coming up, we wanted to get on roll heading into the playoffs and this was a really big for us.â€
Minnesota State hardly looked like the seventh place team in the WCHA in the first period, as the Mavericks stunned the Badgers and freshman goaltender Becca Ruegsegger with three goals in the first eight minutes.
Minnesota Stateâ€™s first goal came off of an innocent point shot by sophomore defenseman Jenna Peterson two minutes and forty seconds in. However, Petersonâ€™s shot deflected off senior forward Kala Buganski stick, dropping below Ruegseggerâ€™s glove and in.
Four and a half minutes later Buganski picked up a much cleaner goal to extend the lead to two. This time the Mavericks captain picked the puck out of a scramble in front, then lifted it up and over Ruegseggerâ€™s glove.
â€œWe just had the momentum and it was one goal after another,â€ Buganski said. â€œWe were having good shifts, moving our feet and causing them to turn the puck over.â€
Minnesota capped the run four minutes later on a power-play goal by sophomore center Moira Oâ€™Conner. Taking a pass out front from sophomore defenseman Jackie Otto, Oâ€™Conner blistered a slap-shot off the corner of the right pipe and crossbar past Ruegsegger.
A timeout and a goalie switch to senior Alannah McCready settled Wisconsin down, and the hosts soon after answered with a goal by freshman forward Brianna Decker. After junior forward Kelly Nashâ€™s shot was stopped by sophomore goaltender Alli Altmann, Decker cashed in on the rebound high to the blocker side.
The Badgers came out with their guns blazing in the second period, but everywhere they turned Altmann was there. Even worse, the Mavericks managed a goal with just 25 seconds left to extend the lead to 4-1. Off the rush, freshman forward Lauren Smith fed Zrust, who then deflected the pass up and over McCready. The goal was just Zrustâ€™s second of the season.
Wisconsin got what they needed to start a rally in the third with an early goal from defenseman Stefanie McKeough. The freshmanâ€™s first colligate goal came off a rebound from a shot from junior forward Mallory Deluce, and brought the Badgers to within two goals at 4-2 with 15 minutes left.
â€œIt was awesome, but I couldnâ€™t think of a good celebration to do so I just slammed my stick on the ice,â€ McKeough said. â€œEven though we trailed by quite a few goals we never got down, it was never say die out there.â€
But again Minnesota State had the response four minutes and 15 seconds later. Zrust picked up her second of the game on a goal that mirrored like her first. This time it was Peterson with the setup, and the tip came off the freshmanâ€™s backhand.
â€œI think on the first one I just drove to the net and was able to get my stick on it,â€ Zrust said. â€œOn the second one, I got a great pass from Peterson and was able to tip it in.â€
The backbreaking goal sunk tenth ranked Wisconsinâ€™s hopes in the game, despite a late goal from Deluce that brought the score back within two. The loss likely pulled the plug on any chance the Badgers had of sneaking into the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid.
If Wisconsin could point to one trend forcing their hand this season, it would have to be their struggles in opening games of series. With the loss, the Badgers fell to just 6-8-2 in series openers.
â€œThe last couple of games we lost hasnâ€™t really been due to our goaltending,â€ Wisconsin coach Tracey DeKeyser said. â€œIt has been due to one or two defensive breakdowns as a unit as a team.â€
Despite the unprecedented offensive outburst for Minnesota State (6-18-5, 4-16-5), the story of victory had to be the play of Altmann, who racked up 48 saves.
â€œAlli was great,â€ Mavericks coach Eric Means said. â€œShe was bound to win the game herself, and I thought she did that for us tonight.â€
Minnesota State knows they will need a better performance if they want to complete their second sweep of the season Sunday.
â€œWe could have played better, but we capitalized on our chances and pulled out the W,â€ Buganski said. â€œHopefully we play a bit better on Sunday and get the win.â€