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MINNEAPOLIS — “It’s tough some nights to get the puck to the net, and the goalies are so well trained, it’s a real challenge,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said after his team battled to a scoreless tie at Minnesota Sunday afternoon.
The Gophers (23-5-5, 19-4-5-3 WCHA) had the better of things in the first period, when they enjoyed a 17-6 advantage in shots on goal.
“It was definitely fun to get to play a little more,” Badgers’ goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens said. “To have a little more shots, I think personally as a goalie, just makes it easier for you; you stay involved.”
Thereafter, outside of a third-period power play for the hosts, Wisconsin (27-2-4, 22-2-4-3 WCHA) was usually the aggressor, particularly in the second period when it fired 20 shots to Minnesota’s seven.
“They have so many great forwards; that’s one of their program strengths is just their depth,” said Minnesota senior defenseman Lee Stecklein. “So you have to be prepared when any of their lines are out there.”
Thanks to the play of Desbiens, who saved all 35 attempts, and Sidney Peters, who turned aside 38, the shots were ultimately academic.
“Both goalies were tremendous,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
It was not surprising coming from Desbiens, who has been the top goalie in the country most of her career.
“You look at her numbers, and again, she put on a display this weekend,” Johnson said. “I think that was her 51st shutout. I’m not sure when we’re going to see that again.”
Peters, a junior in her first season as the starter, matching her save for save was less expected.
“We were out there just having fun, playing a good game of hockey and playing for our teammates,” Peters said. “Playing because we love the game, not for stats or for other reasons. When hockey is like that, it’s so much fun.”
The only puck to find the net came when Stecklein got Desbiens to commit and scored on a backhand in the third round of the shootout.
“It was great to show ourselves that we could play at that high level again,” Stecklein said.
The shootout didn’t gain Minnesota anything beyond punctuation to the series.
“To get the shootout win was just icing on the cake on Senior Night,” Frost said. “Great seniors, six of them, and I’m really proud of each and every one of them. They’ve accepted their role, and they’re great teammates, great people, and they’re going to graduate with a great degree.”
Next up is the postseason.
“We saw two good games this weekend here,” Johnson said. “Entertaining, great crowds, good atmosphere. Both teams are going to be well prepared for next weekend.”
The top-seeded Badgers host Minnesota State in a best-of-three series, while Bemidji State visits Minnesota in another WCHA quarterfinal series