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Women’s hockey: Wisconsin sweeps North Dakota behind strong defensive effort

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team went into this weekend with a bad taste in their mouth. They were facing a team that handed them their only loss of the season, which not only took away their number one ranking, but also their perfect record.The Badgers (24-1-1, 18-1-1 WCHA) took the ice Saturday and Sunday, against rival North Dakota (13-8-3, 10-4-3 ) with bitter-sweet memories from their last match, in which they lost to the Fighting Hawks 3-0 the first night, and tied on the second 0-0.Wisconsin entered the weekend hoping for a better outcome, and slid past North Dakota 1-0 Saturday and closed out the weekend with a 3-1 victory Sunday.As Saturday’s game progressed, it became more evident that the teams were evenly matched, with neither side scoring any points in the remaining two periods. UW head coach Mark Johnson knew that with a game as tightly contested at this one, a scoreless period or two was nothing to be worried about.“It’s like a game of chess: you’re going to make a move and we’re going to make a move,” Johnson said. “And it goes back and forth. Both teams are playing hard, both teams are defending well.”The Badgers’ lone goal of the night — scored by senior forward Erika Sowchuk four minutes into the first period — was all they needed to pull out the victory.Despite Saturday’s victory, the UW coaching staff knew they would need a stronger offensive attack to achieve the sweep. Johnson changed the rotations — something he’s not afraid to do, and put in forwards Annie Pankowski, Emily Clark and Sarah Nurse.Johnson’s strategy worked well for the Badgers, and with less than a minute and a half left in the second period, Nurse ignited the fire for Wisconsin, giving them their first goal of the night and a 1-0 lead.While North Dakota managed to equalize early in the third period, the Badgers closed out the final period strong, and in the last minute of the quarter, Clark found the back of the net to give Wisconsin its motivation back.Clark’s goal was soon followed up by an empty-netter from Pankowski, giving the Badgers its final 3-1 edge on North Dakota.This matchup against North Dakota was not only about capitalizing on opportunities on the ice, but it was also about preventing the Fighting Hawks from gaining any opportunities themselves. Having allowed three goals to North Dakota in their previous matchup, they had their work cut out for them from the start.This time around, the Badger defense still managed to hold their ground. They got creative when it came to stopping the puck, with Wisconsin’s Jenny Ryan even using her head to block a shot at goal.One person who was thankful for the defensive effort was goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, who also managed to save 29 shots the first night and 27 the second, a feat she believes wouldn’t have been possible without her defensemen.“I really enjoy the sacrifices that they [make for me],” Desbiens said. “It’s not easy for them to just throw themselves in front of it, it takes a lot of courage, and my hat’s off to them.”Strong efforts on both ends of the ice not only gave the Badgers their sixth victory in a row, but confidence as they head into their final stretch of the season.For Clark, getting revenge against a team like North Dakota could go a long way for the highly ranked Wisconsin team.“It was very emotional,” Clark said. “To be able to get the win and sweep after the last time we played them was huge.”last_img read more