MADISON, Wis.-- The No. 1 Wisconsin women's hockey team (5-1-0, 3-1-0 WCHA) dropped its first game of the season as No. 3 Minnesota (5-1-0, 3-1-0 WCHA) forced a weekend split with a 3-2 victory at the Kohl Center on Sunday. The loss was the Badgers' first in 33 games, ending their NCAA record-tying unbeaten streak.
After a sluggish start that saw the Gophers claim a 2-0 lead after 26 minutes of play, the Bagders bounced back behind two goals by senior Brooke Ammerman. However, a late rally wasn't enough to claim the series sweep as Minnesota's Amanda Kessel broke the 2-2 tie in the third period.
"Well it's no fun to lose," head coach Mark Johnson said after the game. "We are not in the business of losing, but I like that we gave ourselves an opportunity. In the first eight, 10, 12 minutes it didn't look like we were going to show up. We were able to regroup and we tied the game. In the third period I felt good about our chances. The opportunity of winning is all you ask for and unfortunately we came up a little bit short in this game."
The Gophers set the pace early in the game controlling the puck in the first period and outshooting the Badgers, 13-8. With the momentum on its side, Minnesota got on the board midway through the opening period off an unlucky turn of events for Wisconsin. Gopher defender Megan Bozek corralled a loose puck along the boards at the blue line and flipped it high into the air toward UW's goal. The puck took a weird bounce and ended up in the back of the net.
Minus the fluke goal, Wisconsin goaltender Alex Rigsby played outstanding in the first period, making 12 saves, to keep the Badgers deficit to only one goal.
"I think we just had a slow start," Brooke Ammerman said. "Rigsby really stood on top of her head and I think at one point it was 11-2 shots. Once we settled down and got momentum and drew some power plays, we got our feet under us. The last six minutes we played pretty well, but thankfully Rigsby was able to stop those shots and keep us in the game."
The Badgers were able to regroup and came out matching Minnesota's intensity in the second period, but couldn't get on the board before the Gophers were able to extend their lead behind a Meghan Lorence goal.
"Obviously Minnesota was not happy with the outcome of Friday night's game," Johnson said. "I talked about it before the game, that they were going to come out and they were going to push us and they were going to be very aggressive. We didn't react very well. We turned the puck over too much. They played well. They certainly had some good personnel in the game that played very aggressive. It certainly becomes a learning opportunity for us."
Wisconsin answered back a little over a minute later when Brianna Decker came behind the net to find Brooke Ammerman in the midst of a jumble of players in front of the net. Ammerman put the puck past Raty for her sixth goal of the season.
The Badgers took the momentum into the third period when they tied up the game just over two minutes into the period. Stefanie McKeough passed the puck to Carolyne Prevost in front of the net who then redirected it to Brooke Ammerman on the short side. Brooke Ammerman finished the play putting her second goal past Raty to tie the game at 2-2.
On a defensive lapse four minutes later, the Gophers' Amanda Kessel got open at the left faceoff dot and took advantage of the open look to net the eventual game winner.
"I thought we had great momentum, we just had a defensive breakdown," Brooke Ammerman said of the final goal. "We had all this energy, but we also had a hole in our defensive zone and I think it is something we will learn from."
In the final minute of play, Rigsby skated to the bench for the extra attacker. Unfortunately, the Badgers were unable to score a second equalizer as the Gophers turtled around their net to hold onto to the win.
"A lot of the time I think we maybe had a lane at a point, but we just didn't get our shots off quickly," McKeough said. "They obviously have a lot of confidence in their goaltender, but anytime that you can stop a puck from getting through to the net, preventing that scramble, I think that's what they were doing so well. I think we had chances, but we just couldn't generate anything."
Wisconsin heads to Duluth, Minn. next weekend to take on No. 6 Minnesota Duluth in its first road trip of the season. Game times are scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT) on Friday and Saturday.
- The loss is the first for the Badgers in 33 games, having gone 29-0-2 since Nov. 28, 2010.
- With one assist, Brianna Decker extends her point streak to 15 games.