Split with Wisconsin at Kohl Center elicits confidence from young Gophers

Minnesota won 3-1 on Friday and lost by the same score Saturday.

by Zach Eisendrath

Normally a series split leaves Minnesota’s women’s hockey team unsatisfied.

But that was not the case this weekend. Not against Wisconsin, arguably the nation’s best team on its home ice.

The fifth-ranked Gophers (20- 9-1, 15-8-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) lost 3-1 Saturday night but upset the second-ranked Badgers (25-4-1, 20-3-1 WCHA) 3-1 Friday at the Kohl Center to head home feeling pleased with what they accomplished in Madison, Wis.

“When we step back and look at the weekend as a whole, it was pretty satisfying,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said.

“I didn’t think we had the jump (Saturday) that we did (Friday). I also think Wisconsin played a little better (Saturday). But I’m proud of the way the team hung around and kept battling.”

On Saturday the Gophers made things interesting, but in the end couldn’t keep up with Wisconsin’s offensive attack.

After a scoreless first period, junior defender Bobbi-Jo Slusar put Wisconsin ahead at 5:08 of the second period. The Badgers quickly extended their lead to two goals when sophomore forward Jinelle Zaugg scored with 3:35 remaining in the period.

Sophomore Erica McKenzie gave Minnesota hope heading into the second intermission when she scored her 19th goal of the season on the power-play attempt to cut the deficit to 2-1.

But Wisconsin proved to be too much. Senior captain Sharon Cole slipped the puck past freshman goaltender Brittony Chartier at the 8:46 mark of the final stanza, effectively icing the game.

Friday night the Gophers jumped on the Badgers early and never looked back.

Senior Krista Johnson picked a good time ” the 11:08 mark of the first period ” to score her third goal of the season. Sophomore Liz Palkie centered the puck to Johnson, whose shot from the right wing gave Minnesota the one goal advantage.

“Anytime someone scores first, it’s a great way to start the game,” Halldorson said of Johnson’s goal.

The Gophers added to their lead when freshman standout Gigi Marvin scored past Wisconsin goalie Meghan Horras on the rebound.

Horras blocked shot attempts by both McKenzie and sophomore Jenelle Philipczyk, but Marvin found a hole and put the puck in the net.

With just 25 seconds left in the game, the Badgers put their first score on the board when senior forward Cyndy Kenyon scored on the two-player advantage. Already on the power play, Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson pulled Horras, giving the Badgers another offensive threat.

But that was as close as Wisconsin would come. Sophomore Bobbi Ross scored unassisted just moments later to ice the game.

The defense wasn’t bad Friday, either. Freshman goalie Kim Hanlon (8-2-0) picked up the biggest win of her young career. Hanlon stopped 26 shot attempts, which included shutting down four of five power-play opportunities.

“All my teammates had my back,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon might not have thought it was one of her best games, but Halldorson said she was impressed.

“She did a great job and just continues to get better with time,” Halldorson said. “She’s turned into a really good college goaltender.”

The Gophers entered the weekend looking to see where they stood among the nation’s elite; they left with an abundance of confidence.

“When we’re playing our best, we can compete with any team in the country,” Halldorson said.

Hanlon echoed that confidence.

“Bring it on,” she said when asked if the team can compete with the country’s premier teams. “We can compete with anybody.”