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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Larson: Badgers’ victory showcased complete team effort, what is needed to reach NCAA final

Wisconsin women’s hockey team believes current play will lead them over Minnesota in NCAA semifinal
Elliot Moormann

Had you walked into LaBahn Arena this weekend and not known that it was the NCAA Quarterfinal game, you would’ve thought Saturday was a typical regular season matchup from the calm atmosphere.

The crowd slowly but steadily filled into the arena, and goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens and Rachel Jones were hanging out in the Badgers’ box, talking to the young Badger fans on the other side of the glass.

It seemed as if the pressure of the evening had not gotten to the star goaltender, who was content, making faces and small talk with every kid she could see.


Wisconsin (35-3-1, 24-3-1 WCHA) found themselves facing Mercyhurst University (19-11-5, 14-3-3 WCHA) that night, an opponent they see about once a year. But Badgers had one thing on their side — the game took place at LaBahn Arena.

Desbiens’ cool and calm demeanor stayed in-tact throughout the whole game, in which the junior goaltender blocked each and every one of Mercyhurst’s 22 shots on goal, leading to a 6-0 final score and her 21st shutout of the season.

If there is one thing that has been evident, not only of this game, but for this season, it is that Desbiens is a goaltender unlike any other that transcend far beyond her shutout record.

Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson has been watching Desbiens make gradual changes in her gameplay, and knows that all of them are what are helping her to succeed as one of, if not the, top goaltender in the NCAA.

“We came off Christmas break and came back, and [Desbiens] took her game and focused,” Johnson said. “She stepped up. I think as you’ve watched us play the last six or seven weekends you’ve noticed that her ability to play the puck is a big asset. Her ability and her connection to her defensemen, that’s a big, big plus to have.”

But while Desbiens can do so many things, putting points on the board is not one of them, and for that she relies on her teammates to get the job done. Wisconsin saw goals from six different players, proving that no matter who has the puck, they can score.

Desbiens, who continues to break her own record for single-season shutouts, was not the only Badger to make a personal record on Saturday. Sophomore Annie Pankowski tallied the 100th point of her career off an assist to Sam Cogan’s opening goal.

Saturday’s game showed Wisconsin’s strength as a team, and gave Mercyhurst goaltender Sarah McDonnell one challenging game.

The freshman goaltender saw 41 shots on goal and got a rather rough initiation to NCAA play courtesy of the Badgers.

As junior Sarah Nurse pointed out, if there is one thing this team likes to do, it is test other goaltenders and their ability to block shots.

“We like to get shots on net, and we like to make the goalie earn their saves,” Nurse said.

McDonnell certainly had her work cut out for her, considering she saw almost twice as many shots on goal as Desbiens. But to hold up that well against a team of this caliber proves that one day she might be able to give Desbiens a run for her money.

Another incredible team feat came from the combined team effort that held Mercyhurst from scoring on four separate power plays. Considering the Lakers scored 26 percent of their goals this season from power plays, the Badgers truly defied statistics to keep points off of the board.

In fact, not only did they prevent Mercyhurst from scoring on a power play, but in true Wisconsin fashion, Sydney McKibbon managed to score a shorthanded goal in the second period.

With this win, the Badgers now advance to the semi-final round of the Frozen Four tournament, which will take place in New Hampshire. Their opponent, however, is not a newcomer to the schedule like Mercyhurst, it is none other than bitter rival University of Minnesota.

The Badgers have met Minnesota in this exact same scenario for the past two years, coming away with losses both times, 5-3 in 2015 and 3-1 in 2014. The Badgers are currently 3-2 against the Gophers this season and will need to be on top of their game to make it 4-2 to end the season.

Nurse, who played in both games alongside Desbiens, knows that the team cannot psych themselves out about this game. She believes the team needs to stay focused on what they’ve been doing, and that should help them break the stretch of past outcomes of this game.

“As we go into practice this week, we really have to worry about our own game,” Nurse said. “I think we’ve been a successful team all year and if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll have a lot of success next weekend.”

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