Halldorson notches win No. 200 in sweep

by Brett Angel

Moments after the final whistle sounded, a mentally and physically drained Jackie MacMillan turned and braced herself against the net in exhaustion.

Wisconsin’s senior goaltender racked up 40 saves in 42 chances against the nation’s second-ranked scoring offense Saturday afternoon at Ridder Arena. But a tremendous performance by their goalie wasn’t enough to spell victory for the Badgers, who were defeated by Minnesota 2-1.

For the second straight night, Wisconsin’s defense kept the game close, but the Badgers (4-3-1, 0-3-1 WCHA) were unable to keep pace with the Gophers’ potent offensive attack.

“Our biggest problem right now is our inability to score goals,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “We create chances, but the puck’s just not going in.”

Wisconsin trailed by a single goal entering the third period, but three Badger penalties led to 19 Minnesota shots in the final stanza.

Wisconsin’s defense responded admirably, killing off all three Gopher power-play opportunities, including a five-on-three, but the effort took its toll on the Badgers.

“The third period, it felt like we were short-handed the whole time,” Johnson said. “Usually, your quality players are your penalty killers. When they have to kill penalties off consecutively, they don’t have much left in their tank to score goals.”

Wisconsin was within reach until the end despite serving 16 penalty minutes to Minnesota’s six and getting out-shot 42-13.

Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz recorded two points apiece for the Gophers (8-0-0, 6-0-0), who extended their record season-opening winning streak to eight games.

Darwitz scored just 2:49 into the contest on a rebound off a Wendell wrap-around attempt. Wendell got one for herself early in the second period on a Minnesota power-play.

Minnesota prevailed 3-1 Friday night and has now won four in a row and six of its last seven meetings with Wisconsin.

The two victories kept the Gophers atop the WCHA standings and were a positive start to a difficult November schedule ahead.

Minnesota plays six of its next eight games at Ridder Arena, but all except two will be against opponents currently ranked in the nation’s top 10.

Those two games will be against Bemidji State this weekend, but the Gophers must face the Beavers without four of their top players.

Wendell, Darwitz, Kelly Stephens and Winny Brodt will be participating in the Four Nations Cup in Ontario.

“We don’t want to look too far ahead,” Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson said. “But this is a great way to start a very difficult and challenging month.”

Halldorson wins No. 200

with Saturday’s victory over Wisconsin, Halldorson collected the 200th victory of her collegiate coaching career.

In her 13th season as a head coach, Halldorson now has a 200-105-24 record (.655), including a 141-32-15 mark (.815) with the Gophers.

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]