MADISON, Wisc. - Led by powerful special teams play and some goaltender heroics, the No. 2 Wisconsin women's hockey team vanquished long-time conference-rival Minnesota Duluth 3-1 Saturday at LaBahn Arena.
After scoring on two of their five power play opportunities in today's contest, the Badgers (20-3-2, 16-3-2-1) improved their power play scoring percentage to 27.1, the second-best in the nation. Wisconsin also showed strength in penalty kills, holding UMD (11-9-5, 9-7-5-3) scoreless on all three of its power play advantages to bring its penalty kill percentage to 92.6, which ranks third nationally.
"I think like any team, you are always working on special teams," UW head coach Mark Johnson said. "It comes down to execution. You practice certain things and then depending on the defending, it comes down to execution and creating scoring opportunities. Certain, two power play goals today was the different in the game."
Junior Blayre Turnbull and redshirt junior Brittany Ammerman each tallied a power play goal and an assist in the win, while sophomore Rachel Jones added the third goal on assists by freshmen Sarah Nurse and Mellissa Channell.
Senior goaltender Alex Rigsby brought the LaBahn crowd to its feet after multiple remarkable stops, recording 20 saves and improving her season record to 10-2-2. Rigsby currently holds the record for most wins in program history with 93 triumphs. The Badgers outshot the Bulldogs 37-21 overall.
The Badgers jumped out to an early lead as Turnbull drove the puck between the legs of UMD goaltender Kayla Black on a UW power play at the 7:37 mark of the first period. The effort resulted in Turnbull's second power play goal of the season and her career.
Jones followed suit 10 minutes later, connecting with a pass from freshman Sarah Nurse in front of UMD's goal before punching it into the back of the net to tally her second goal of the season, third of her career. Wisconsin closed the first period with a 2-0 advantage after outshooting the Bulldogs 10-8.
The Cardinal and White saw more 5-on-4 success in the second frame, as Ammerman sent a rebound shot to the upper shelf during a second UW power play 6:11 into the period to tally her 17th goal of the season, which paces the Badgers.
UW outshot UMD 19-6 in the second and led 3-0 heading into the final period.
But the Bulldogs would not go down without a fight. UMD's Jamie Kenyon managed to sneak the puck past Rigsby with just under five minutes remaining to narrow the Badgers' lead to two. But UW held off the remaining UMD attacks, claiming a 3-1 victory over the conference foe.
"Our league is very competitive, top to bottom," Johnson said. "There are no easy nights and you have to play hard for 60 minutes. You have to play smart for 60 minutes and then capitalize on opportunities. We continued to build with an effort this afternoon, and those are good signs that each game we are finding ways to win and ways to get things don. Especially at this time of season, it goes a long way."
The teams battle tomorrow in the series conclusion at 3 p.m. at LaBahn Arena.