The first of three NCAA Division I hockey games between top 10 teams on Friday went to No. 1-ranked Wisconsin, which prevailed 3-0 in the first half of a two-game WCHA series against No. 7 Minnesota Duluth at Amsoil Arena.
The Bulldogs (2-3 overall, 2-3 WCHA), who will host the Badgers again here at 1 p.m. Sunday in the series finale, hoped to hand Wisconsin (7-0, 3-0) its first loss of the 2021-22 season, but they couldn’t get the puck past Kennedy Blair.
The Badgers' redshirt senior goaltender made a number of key saves early against UMD to keep the game scoreless. She finished with 24 saves on 24 shots for her fourth shutout of the season and fifth in seven games for the Badgers.
Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said she would have liked to see her team make Blair more uncomfortable in the crease, which happened initially, but not late.
“In the first when we were going, she was uncomfortable and it would have been a matter of time if we kept that pressure up,” Crowell said. “If you think about it as a goalie, you get comfortable 20 minutes in, no goals against. Now in that second period, I think we're about halfway through, and she had only seen 12 shots, so we want to get at her more. We got to make her more uncomfortable than we're doing now — keeping the puck in the (offensive) zone versus shot, rebound, they get it and they're coming back at us.”
Sophomore wing Makenna Webster, the NCAA leader in points with 21 through seven games, scored two of the Badgers’ three goals and both came on the power play. She scored eight seconds into a power play midway through the first period and again 19 seconds into a major penalty — interference — by senior defenseman Maggie Flaherty during the final minute of the second.
Wisconsin finished 2-for-3 on the power play Friday as the Bulldogs — who went 0-for-2 on the power play — were able to kill off the 4:17 of Flaherty’s major to start the third period.
Crowell said killing off the rest of the major was “huge,” especially after giving up two quick goals earlier on the penalty kill. The team watched video during the intermission and made some quick adjustments to kill off the rest of the major. The momentum gained off the kill didn’t lead to any goals, even late with senior goaltender Emma Soderberg pulled for an extra attacker.
“We had some chances, I’d like to get more shots, I’d like to create more offensive zone time,” Crowell said. “We had out chances 6-on-5 with the goalie pulled for a while. That was a situation we had been in in the past, this season already. I thought we did a really good job with that just managing the puck and trying to pop one in. We wanted to just get one, try to chip away at it. It felt like at any point we could have scored and then gained some momentum, pulled it back. But then workout.”
After putting up 15 goals in their first four games, the Bulldogs were shut out on Friday for the first time this season by a Badgers team that has allowed just two goals in its first seven games.
It was also the first time this season UMD’s top line of seniors Anna Klein, Gabbie Hughes and Elizabeth Giguere was kept off the scoresheet. Giguere and Hughes had registered a point in every game thus far, while Klein had scored in three of the four.
Klein said the Bulldogs did a good job early attacking the Badgers in waves, but failed to keep the pressure on throughout the game.
“For my line, especially after the first, we started to get a little too fancy,” Klein said. “That’s not going to work against them. They’re fast, they’ve got good sticks, they’re strong. Just keeping it more simple, getting pucks to the net, going for those rebounds is probably what we mainly want to focus on.”
Minnesota Duluth 0-0-0—0
Saves — Kennedy Blair, UW, 24; Emma Soderberg, UMD, 34.
Power plays — UW 2-3; UMD 0-2. Penalties — UW 2-4; UMD 2-7.