No. 3 Badger women move on to WCHA Final Face-Off championship t - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

No. 3 Badger women move on to WCHA Final Face-Off championship tilt

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GRAND FORKS, North Dakota -- For the first time since the 2010-11 season, the No. 3 Wisconsin women's hockey team advanced to the WCHA Final Face-Off championship game, led its sophomore class in a 4-1 victory over No. 8 North Dakota on Saturday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Three different sophomores lit the lamp for the Badgers (27-6-4), including Sarah Nurse, who tallied two third-period strikes, a power-play goal and an empty-net goal, to seal UW's win over North Dakota (22-12-3). Classmates Mellissa Channell and Sydney McKibbon also scored in the first and second periods, respectively.

“Obviously, we're excited,” UW head coach Mark Johnson said. “It was, for the most part, a pretty tight game both ways. We capitalized on some of the opportunities and certainly the power play goal in the third period was a good goal for us.”

Wisconsin was outshot for only the third time this season, as UND had 27 shots on goal compared to UW's 26, but the Badgers made the most of their scoring chances.

Channell put UW on the board early in the first period for a 1-0 lead. Channell followed a rush from UW forwards and pounced on a loose puck in the offensive zone. She launched a laser from the top of the left circle that blew past UND defenders and First-Team All-WCHA goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie and into the right side of the goal.

"Those are the things you're looking for in these types of games" Johnson said. "When you get an opportunity, somebody steps up and makes a big play. Certainly her (Channell's) shot was earmarked for the top corner.

“For us, coming in here and getting the first goal was a big confidence boost.”

McKibbon added a goal in the second to give the Badgers a 2-0 lead. There haven't been many open spaces in Amsley-Benzie's net this year, but McKibbon's wrister from the top of the circle squeaked through the UND goaltender's pads and found its way to the back of the net.

Nurse's power-play goal came nearly eight minutes into the final period. The UW power play unit worked the puck around, leading to a powerful Jenny Ryan shot from the point that Nurse redirected into the top left corner of the goal, beating the UND netminder cleanly.

Nurse had several opportunities in the matchup, as she led UW with seven shots on goal, but ultimately the final tally of the game came just one minute and 14 seconds after North Dakota broke the shutout with an extra attacker late in the third period. Nurse was then able to end the threat, bury the puck on the empty net, and seal the Badgers' victory.

"They were obviously playing for their season today," Nurse said. “Once they got that goal, we needed to come out and have a comeback for them. I think we responded well.”

Sophomore netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens stopped 26 of the 27 shots she faced to improve to 24-6-4 on the season.

“I think my team did a great job icing the puck and just making sure the defense kept picking up people in front of the net,” Desbiens said of the Badgers' play in the third period. “Overall, it was a great team effort at the end to make sure they didn't score any other goals.”

Wisconsin, the tournament's No. 2 seed, will face No. 5-seeded Bemidji State on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Beavers upset No. 2 Minnesota, 1-0, in the other semifinal of the WCHA Final Face-Off.

“We played St. Cloud last weekend,” Johnson said. “St. Cloud plays a similar style to Bemidji, North Dakota, very similar to what Bemidji does. We have a pretty good feeling of what's coming at us. It's in our ability to come out with the same energy we did tonight and capitalize on some opportunities, especially early in the game if we are able to.”

The Badgers have won four WCHA tournament titles, capturing league tournament crowns in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

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