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Gophers women’s hockey earns one point in Border Battle series

Minnesota’s late comeback on Friday night was not enough to beat the Badgers in overtime.
Image by Taylor Wolfram (courtesy)
Gopher goaltender Lucy Morgan attempts to locate the puck in a net-front scramble during Saturday afternoon’s 4-0 loss. Morgan had 27 saves and allowed one power-play goal in the loss.

MADISON, WIS. — Gophers women’s hockey lost both games against the Wisconsin Badgers in their final away series of the season.

Heading into the series, third-place Minnesota trailed Wisconsin by four points in the WCHA standings. Each team won a game the last time the two met at Ridder Arena.

The Gophers entered Madison on an eight-game winning streak that began on Jan. 19 with a series sweep over Bemidji State.

Game one

Gopher fans wearing yellow were scattered among the sold-out sea of red Badger fans at LaBahn Arena on Friday night. 

Minnesota head coach Brad Frost started junior goaltender Skylar Vetter against Wisconsin’s redshirt junior Jane Gervais.

Wisconsin’s early attack drew a penalty as junior forward Ella Huber was sent off for a cross-check, but the Gopher’s penalty kill smothered any Badger scoring opportunities.

Minnesota’s successful penalty kill fueled an offensive-zone drive. The Gophers forced a Wisconsin defender to turn the puck over, allowing junior captain Peyton Hemp to score the opening goal over halfway through the first period.

Midway through the second period, Badger defender Laney Potter tied the game as she scored on a centering pass from Kelly Gorbatenko. 

Wisconsin’s solid defense turned to offense as Badger forward Marianne Picard scored to give her team a 2-1 lead in the latter half of the second period. 

Josefin Bouveng tied the game five minutes into the third period after firing a shot over the shoulder of Gervais. Two and a half minutes later, forward Britta Curl scored to give the Badgers a 3-2 lead.

Minnesota’s offensive zone pressure in the final five minutes of regulation led to a powerplay as Edwards took down junior forward Abbey Murphy with a little over a minute left in the period.

Six seconds after the power play began, Bouveng scored her second goal of the game on a one-time shot following a pass from Murphy to tie the game. Time expired in regulation and the game went to overtime.

The fans in the arena were silent to start until the home crowd began a “Let’s Go Red” chant a minute and a half into overtime. With the crowd riled up, Laila Edwards broke through the Gophers’ defense and scored the overtime winner.

Bouveng and Murphy each had two points while Vetter had 31 saves in the 4-3 overtime loss.

After the game, Bouveng said playing on the top line this year has been a huge honor after the departure of graduating players.

“I’m super grateful for playing with my line and everyone else,” Bouveng said. “I think Minnesota has been a super good environment to develop in.”

Frost praised Wisconsin’s talent and mentioned the difficulty of playing an away series at LaBahn Arena.

“They’re number two [in the national rankings] for a reason,” Frost said. “If you can play toe-to-toe with a team like [Wisconsin], you can play toe-to-toe with anybody.” 

Game two

The Gophers returned to another sold-out LaBahn Arena game Saturday afternoon for the second match of the series.

Both coaches switched goaltenders as fifth-year Lucy Morgan started for Minnesota and Ava McNaughton started for Wisconsin.

After Friday’s game, Vetter said having a goaltender she can switch with alleviated some difficulty.

“I played a lot of games last year and it was very hard playing back-to-back every single night,” Vetter said. “No one really understands how hard back-to-back games are until you get thrown into it for a full year.”

The Badger’s top line of Casey O’Brien, Kirsten Simms and Curl started the game with heavy pressure in the Gopher’s zone. Simms opened the scoring two and a half minutes into the second period after she beat Morgan with a far-side shot.

Morgan was unable to stop Simms as she scored again on a shot similar to her first goal to give Wisconsin a 2-0 lead. Wisconsin continued to control much of the play in the first half of the second period. 

After Murphy took a penalty, Eden converted on the powerplay to put the Badgers up 3-0. Wheeler sniped a shot past Morgan 30 seconds later to extend Wisconsin’s lead to four.

The fans in LaBahn arena cheered as time expired while the Badgers claimed a 4-0 win and three more points in the WCHA standings.

After gaining one point in the standings from the overtime loss over the weekend, Minnesota can no longer surpass Wisconsin in the conference standings. The Gophers remained in  third place with 57 points as the Badgers now have 65 in second place.

The Gophers return to Ridder Arena to play the University of Minnesota – Duluth in their final regular season series of the season. Frost called attention to the importance of the series for the NCAA tournament.

“That’s going to be really important for us to get back to it,” Frost said. “Flush this one, learn from it and move on.”

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