Senior Amanda Leveille saved all 35 Wisconsin shots as the NMinnesota Golden Gophers handed No. 2 Wisconsin its second loss of the season, 4-0.
“We always have the same mindset that the next game is the biggest game of the year,” she said. “Obviously, when we’re playing Wisconsin, we get pumped up just a little bit more. I think we all played really well tonight. It was good to get two goals early.”
Minnesota (28-3-1, 23-3-1-0 WCHA) got two goals from Amanda Kessel and a tally apiece from defensemen Megan Wolfe and Sydney Baldwin, as Hannah Brandt had two assists. The four goals were the most allowed this season by Wisconsin (30-2-1, 24-2-1-1 WCHA).
“We knew it was going to be at a high pace,” Badgers coach Mark Johnson said. “We needed to play five, six, eight minutes of 0-0 hockey or else get one, but they scored the first one a couple minutes into it, and then they’re going to get excited.”
Wolfe’s shot from the right-wing boards got through Ann-Renée Desbiens and rolled into the net, and by the time the game was 48 minutes old, the Gophers had scored more goals than they managed in all 124 minutes of play when the teams met in Madison in December.
The biggest change in the lineups was Kessel, and she made her presence felt four minutes after Wolfe’s goal, circling behind the net and scoring from the low slot.
“Every game, I’m just feeling better, and I thought me and my linemates probably had our best game that we’ve had,” Kessel said. “Kind of finding where each other are finally.”
In the second period, Baldwin walked in from the point, took a pass from Dani Cameranesi, and sniped the third goal.
At 7:36 of the third period, Sarah Potomak hit Kessel for a one-timer in front, the Madison native’s 100th goal as a Gopher, which she said was a little sweeter against this opponent.
“Our biggest rivals, and obviously, my home town,” Kessel said. “Overall, a great team win, and you could really see the excitement on our bench tonight.”
The visitors were hoping to create similar excitement.
“We had 35 shots, and against them, that’s a pretty good night,” Johnson said. “But you’ve got to get something behind the goaltender to create some energy.”
While Desbiens thwarted most of Minnesota’s best chances in the previous series, this time it was Leveille who always had the answer, producing the 30th shutout of her career.
“She’s just an awesome competitor,” Kessel said. “You know you’re going to get the best from her every single night. I know how hard it is to score on her in practice, so I feel comfortable with her in our net.”
The teams complete their regular seasons with a Saturday game at 3:03 p.m.
“They’ve got some high-powered kids, and if you give them time and space, they can do some wonderful things,” Johnson said. “If you’re a Gopher fan, you like watching that, but if you’re us, you’ve got to take that away. It’s a good weekend to play against each other, because it gets you ready for next weekend.”
Friday’s game drew a crowd of 3,288.
“We’re all really grateful that we’ve had four great years at the University of Minnesota,” Leveille said. “Being able to beat Wisconsin on our senior weekend is something that just adds a little extra special-ness to our four years.”