Gophers rally to beat Badgers in shootout

by Grant Donald

Head coach Brad Frost emerged from the Gophers locker room with a relieved look on his face.

After failing to win any shootouts over the course of the last three years, including losing two earlier this season, his team finally was on the winning side of the tiebreaker, edging No. 3 Wisconsin 1-0 after the teams skated to a 1-1 tie in regulation and overtime.

“We practice shootouts every Thursday, but you would never know it because that was our first win in I don’t know how long,” Frost said while laughing. “It’s been a monkey on our back for a long, long time.”

Junior forward Hannah Brandt got the second-ranked Gophers started on the right foot in the shootout as she calmly lifted the puck into the upper right corner for a goal.

That would be all the help junior goaltender Amanda Leveille would need as she would go on to make three top-notch saves to extend Minnesota’s unbeaten streak against the Badgers to 15 games.

“Our team hadn’t had a lot of success in shootouts in the past but we finally broke the streak,” Leveille said. “I guess you kind of need [some swagger] when you go into [shootouts].”

Leveille exhibited plenty of swag throughout the game as she turned away 32 Wisconsin shots, the most impressive of which came in the form of a glove save during the second round of penalty shots.

While Leveille kept the Gophers in the game, it was Brandt who emerged to carry the team offensively on a day where the nations second best offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

“I think we were a little more tired today because of playing in the big game yesterday and the games earlier this week,” Brandt said. “But we also weren’t making the right decisions for the first couple of periods. That was more mental.”

After 39 minutes of scoreless hockey, Wisconsin finally poked in a rebound by Leveille to give the Badgers their first lead of the weekend with 24 seconds remaining in the second period.

But Brandt and the rest of the Gophers didn’t panic, as they recalled being in the exact same situation when the two teams played in Madison earlier this year and overcoming the one-goal deficit to notch the victory in overtime.

“I told our team, we are the ones that usually score at the end of the periods and other teams kind of fold their tents going in to the last period and I wasn’t going to allow us to do that,” Frost said. “I didn’t care if they scored five minutes into the second or with 20 seconds left, we needed to find a way.”

That’s exactly what the Gophers did as they kept pressuring the Badgers defense until they finally broke through with six minutes remaining in the game as Brandt received a beautiful pass from senior Meghan Lorence and buried it in the back of the net.

Neither team was able to break down the opposing defense until Brandt stepped up to start the penalty shootout and end Minnesota’s rough luck in arguably the most exciting aspect of hockey.

“I never try and set anything in stone before I go [for penalty shots] because when I do I always end up missing,” Brandt said. “We know we didn’t play our best game and we still came away with a tie against a very good team. We are happy with the result.”