Women's Hockey: Gophers women come up empty in WCHA title game
MINNEAPOLIS -- Gophers women's hockey players milled around their blue line at Ridder Arena on Sunday afternoon and did something they hadn't done all year: watch an opponent celebrate.On their home ice.No. 2 Minnesota, which had an 18-0-1 record...
MINNEAPOLIS - Gophers women’s hockey players milled around their blue line at Ridder Arena on Sunday afternoon and did something they hadn’t done all year: watch an opponent celebrate.
On their home ice.
No. 2 Minnesota, which had an 18-0-1 record at home, fell 1-0 to No. 3 Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Faceoff championship game in the rubber game between two archrivals and women’s hockey powers.
The Gophers stoically watched as the buzzer sounded while Badgers players mobbed goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens in celebration of their second consecutive conference tournament championship.
Desbiens was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after recording 35 saves for her 20th shutout of the season behind a defense that allows a staggering 0.7 goals per game.
“We didn’t score. When you don’t score, it makes it difficult to win. Credit them for that,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “I know it’s a simple statement, but it’s true. We had our chances but couldn’t find a way. They were able to bang one home”
Minnesota and Wisconsin had split their four regular-season meetings and - with higher stakes in the conference tournament championship game - the Badgers set an early tone with a dozen first-period shots.
Gophers goaltender Amanda Leveille was on her game, though, and made all 12 saves while Minnesota’s skaters tried desperately to clear the puck from their own zone. The Gophers finally recorded their first shot on goal almost midway through the period.
“I thought Lev played great, particularly early in that first period and kept them off the board and kept us in the game,” Frost said. “All of a sudden, we started to find our legs a little more and play a little better.”
Minnesota was more aggressive in the second and third periods, pressuring Desbiens with the help of a four power plays. But she turned away shot after shot and Wisconsin’s penalty kill cleared the puck whenever possible.
“In the second and third, we definitely got a lot of chances,” Gophers senior captain Hannah Brandt said.
“With the way (Desbiens) has been playing lately, we just needed to get more people to the net. That’s the only way you’re going to get pucks past her.”
That’s exactly what the Badgers did to beat Leveille.
Wisconsin forward Sydney McKibbon sneaked behind the Gophers’ senior All-American and bashed a rebound past her for the lone goal of the game at 13:12 of the second period.
“My job was to stop pucks and I let one in, but we have the next game. We have a team motto that the biggest game of the year is next game,” Leveille said. “We have an opportunity to win next Saturday.”
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