Gopher women best Wisconsin in defensive battle - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Gopher women best Wisconsin in defensive battle

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Wisconsin women's hockey team accomplished something that no other team in the nation has yet to do; keep Minnesota scoreless for the first 49 minutes of play. However, the Badgers' defensive effort fell short as No. 1 Minnesota used a power-play goal and an empty-net goal to pull off a 2-0 win on Sunday afternoon at Ridder Arena.
 
Wisconsin (10-6-2; 6-6-2-2 WCHA) proved to be the toughest competition Minnesota (18-0-0; 12-0-0-0) has faced all season. But that was little consolation for the Badgers, who weathered 17 shots in the second period and kept the Gophers to a season-low two goals in the game.
 
"It was going to come down to somebody capitalizing on an opportunity and Minnesota was able to capitalize on the power play late in the game and that was basically the difference," head coach Mark Johnson said. "Alex (Rigsby) played really well and gave us a chance to win. As I told our team, they played hard, they competed and that's all you can ask of them."
 
Wisconsin started the game off strong, outshooting Minnesota 11-7 in the first period, but the second period turned into a shooting gallery for Minnesota. The Gophers outshot the Badgers 17-2 in the second, but Rigsby backstopped the Badgers to a scoreless tie at the second intermission.
 
"They've got good players and when they get rolling it becomes hard. We were bending and we never broke," Johnson commented about the second period. "When we needed Alex to make a save, she was able to do that."
 
Rigsby's 17 saves in the second period included seven from directly in front of the net. After a highlight reel save from Minnesota's Noora Räty the night before, Rigsby wouldn't be outdone, making a high-blocker save off a one timer at the backdoor from the nation's leading scorer, Amanda Kessel.
 
The Badger defense did it's best to keep the Gopher offense off the board, but a power-play opportunity for Minnesota proved to be the difference maker. Mira Jalosuo scored off a one-timed slap shot from the high slot to give the Gophers their eventual game-winner at the 9:14 mark of the third period.
 
With time expiring in the game, the Badgers opted for an empty net in a last-ditch effort to tie the game. However, Kessel found the puck with open ice in front of her and gave the Gophers an insurance goal on the empty net with 10 seconds remaining.
 
Rigsby's 36 save effort was only one save shy of matching her save total from the previous night. In all, Rigsby made 73 saves on the weekend, her highest weekend total of the season.
 
Wisconsin returns to the ice next weekend, as the Badgers host WCHA rival North Dakota. The series against UND is slated for Saturday-Sunday, with the games beginning at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
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