Minnesota’s senior class had never lost to Wisconsin heading into their road series with the Badgers over the weekend.
The team is now on a two-game losing streak. The No. 3 Gophers fell in a 3-2 overtime loss Friday and a 3-1 loss Saturday, marking the first time Wisconsin has swept Minnesota since 2009.
“Coming into the weekend, it was an opportunity to see where Wisconsin was at and where we’re at,” head coach Brad Frost said. “I told the players at the end of the night that this weekend isn’t going to define us, but it’s definitely something that we need to learn from.”
The teams both started Friday’s game slow, until Gophers senior forward Brook Garzone scored 3:42 into the second period.
No. 1 Wisconsin (18-0, 12-0 WCHA) got on the board less than five minutes later with a goal from freshman forward Sam Cogan, and the Badgers took a 2-1 lead shortly after when senior forward Rachel Jones scored.
Gophers senior defenseman Milica McMillen answered with less than seven minutes to go in the second period to even the score at 2-2.
Neither team was able to take the lead in the third, sending the game to overtime. Wisconsin sophomore forward Annie Pankowski scored the game-winning goal on the power play with less than a minute remaining in overtime to give the Badgers a 3-2 victory.
The Badgers narrowly outshot the Gophers 27-23 in the game. And Minnesota’s penalty kill held Wisconsin to just 1-3 on power-play attempts despite the loss.
“I think we did really well killing penalties,” McMillen said. “I know we hadn’t been doing so well earlier in the season, but we did this weekend.”
The Badgers shut down the Gophers’ top-ranked power play, though, as Minnesota (15-3, 11-3 WCHA) failed to produce any points in its two opportunities. Wisconsin currently has the No. 1 penalty kill in the country.
Saturday’s game began similarly to the previous night, until Pankowski scored with less than four minutes remaining in the first to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead. Pankowski scored again in the second, her third goal of the series, giving the Badgers a 2-0 lead after two periods.
Freshman forward Sarah Potomak put the Gophers on the scoreboard 8:12 into the third period, and Minnesota began to put some pressure on Wisconsin, outshooting the Badgers 8-6 in the final 20 minutes.
Minnesota pulled goaltender Amanda Leveille toward the end of the game, but Wisconsin’s Sarah Nurse scored an empty-net goal with 16 seconds left in the game to seal a 3-1 victory for the Badgers.
Minnesota held Wisconsin to 0-4 on the power play, but the Gophers were 0-2 on their own power-play chances.
The series was the first time Minnesota had been swept by any team since 2010.
“When we play as a team, we can do amazing things,” Potomak said. “In the third period of that last game, we didn’t go individual and turned that game around, so I think the biggest takeaway is how we can play when we play together.”