Balanced Attack Leads Top Seed Wisconsin into 2016 Final Face-Off Championship Game
Five Badgers Record a Goal and Ann-Renée Desbiens Extends NCAA Record with Her 19th Shutout in 5-0 Victory

Junior Ann-Renee Desbiens recorded her 19th shutout of season with 17 saves for the Badgers
Prd Time  Team Score Type Scored By Assists
1st 7:34  WIS1-0 EV GW Mikaela Gardner (2)Erika Sowchuk/10, Sophia Shaver/8
2nd 0:21  WIS2-0 EV Courtney Burke (5)Emily Clark/20
2nd 14:28  WIS3-0 EV Annie Pankowski (22) -
2nd 18:08  WIS4-0 EV Kim Drake (2)Sophia Shaver/9
2nd 19:41  WIS5-0 EV Sarah Nurse (24)Sydney McKibbon/27
Scoring 1st 2nd 3rd Final
Minnesota Duluth  0000
Wisconsin  1405
Shots on Goal 1st 2nd 3rd SOG
Minnesota Duluth  56617
Wisconsin  14181143
Team Stats and Records  PP PIM SHGF
Minnesota Duluth (15-21-1)  0/2 4/8 0
Wisconsin (33-3-1)  0/3 3/6 0
Minnesota Duluth Goaltending MIN GA 1 2 3 Saves
Kayla Black (L, 10-6-1)60:005 13141138
Wisconsin Goaltending MIN GA 1 2 3 Saves
Ann-Renée Desbiens (W, 31-3-1)59:550 56617
Empty Net0:050     

By Robert Desimone, special to WCHA.com

Sarah Nurse recorded her team-leading 24th goal, Sophia Shaver added two assists, and Ann-Renée Desbiens recorded 17 saves as top-seeded Wisconsin (33-3-1) defeated the University of Minnesota Duluth (15-21-1) 5-0 at Ridder Arena in the first semifinal of the 2016 WCHA Final Face-Off. Wisconsin out-shot the Bulldogs 43-17 and nine different Badgers recorded a point in the victory.

BONUS VIDEO: Wisconsin Press Conference | Minnesota Duluth Press Conference

Wisconsin advances to the WCHA Final Face-Off championship game Sunday afternoon, 2:07 p.m. (CT) at Ridder Arena against the winner of the second WCHA semifinal between the University of Minnesota and the University of North Dakota. The championship game will be broadcast live on FOX Sports North and the FOX Sports Wisconsin Alternate Channel, with coverage beginning at 2:00 p.m. CT.

Wisconsin jumped out on the attack early in the first period and finally broke through at 7:34 when a bouncing puck found Mikaela Gardner in the slot. Gardner fired it past Bulldogs' goaltender Kayla Black for a 1-0 lead. Erika Sowchuk and Sophia Shaver both assisted on the goal.

"It was a challenge early, they certainly came in very comfortable and confident after last weekend," said Wisconsin Head Coach Mark Johnson. "You get into the playoffs and it starts tight, kind of like chess, so when we scored the first goal that really helped us get some energy."

Despite being out-shot 12-0 midway through the period, the Bulldogs trailed just 1-0 as they settled into the game. After matching penalties at the 16:28 mark, offensive pressure lead to a slashing penalty against Wisconsin at 17:40, giving Minnesota-Duluth a 4-on-3 power play. That power play was quickly thwarted though when Badger penalty killer Nurse sprung free for a potential breakaway and was tripped, ending the power play for UMD as the period ended with the Badgers holding a 1-0 lead and 14-5 shot advantage.

The second period has proved to be fruitful for the Badgers this season, scoring 46 goals and holding their opponents to an NCAA-low seven goals. This was the case again as the Badgers out-scored the Bulldogs 4-0, starting with a goal just 21 seconds into the period. On a line rush down the right wing, Emily Clark sent a cross crease pass to a cutting Courtney Burke, who was able to deflect it past Black for her eighth goal of the season.

"I'm certainly pleased with our effort this afternoon, especially in the second period," Johnson added. "Courtney's goal to start the second, I think that put Minnesota Duluth on their heels and we just built off that and played very well."

Wisconsin entered the game 28-0-0 when leading by two goals this season, creating a big mountain to climb for UMD, but the Bulldogs continued to battle and a great chance for Ashleigh Brykaliuk midway through the period just missed the corner as she tried to cut the Wisconsin lead in half.

The floodgates finally opened for Wisconsin late in the period as a turnover in the slot found the stick of Annie Pankowski, and she fired a wrist shot into the top corner for an unassisted goal at 14:28, her 22nd goal and team-leading 56th point of the season.

"That goal 20 seconds in was a tough goal, but still a 2-0 game so that was okay," said Minnesota Duluth Head Coach Maura Crowell. "I think the third one, unfortunately we had a turnover and I see that as the backbreaking moment, once you're down three against a team like Wisconsin it's going to be really tough to come back."

Wisconsin extended the lead at 18:08 of the period when Kim Drake rushed down the left wing and fired a sharp angle shot from the goal-line that found its way past Black for her second goal of the season. Moments later, Sydney McKibbon won an offensive-zone faceoff into the slot, where Nurse fired a shot over the shoulder of Black for a 5-0 lead at 19:41. The goal, her 24th of the year, ties Nurse for second in the WCHA and sixth in the nation.

The teams played a scoreless third period as the Badgers finished with the 5-0 victory. A week after the Badgers had eight different players score a goal in the series win versus Minnesota State, Wisconsin had nine different players score a point, with Shaver recording the only multi-point game for the Badgers.

"It's really nice to have the depth that we do, there's a lot of confidence in each other knowing whoever is on the ice can put the puck in the net," Pankoswki said. "I think there's a lot of momentum that can come from that. There's also a lot of competition with each other in practice, we push each other to have little scoring competitions in practice and I think having that kind of camaraderie really helps us."

The shutout for Desbiens, her 19th of the season, extends her NCAA Division I single-season record. The Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-three finalist leads the nation with a .958 save percentage and 0.75 goals-against average.

"It's not something we think about, it just happens and I think it shows the hard work from the regular season to the playoffs," Desbiens said of her shutout record.

"It takes time in that position," Johnson said of Desbiens' maturity. "She's a junior now so she's had a couple years preparing and she had a stint last spring with Team Canada and the World Championships. It's a growth process and her performance, especially since Christmas, has been very strong."

Wisconsin looks to win its sixth WCHA Playoff Championship on Sunday and defend its 2015 Final Face-Off crown. Puck drop is set for 2:07 PM at Ridder Arena; for tickets visit Gophersports.com.

"You don't often get a lot of chances to play for trophies," Johnson added. "We won't change our strategy, the big thing is you have to play to win, you have to play on your toes and you can't worry about making mistakes. They've worked hard and they've put themselves in the position, so let's go out and enjoy the game, it will be a fun afternoon and I'm excited for our team to get a chance to play in that game."