MADISON, Wis. – Freshman defenseman Mekenzie Steffen scored in the 12th round of a shootout to lead the No. 1 Wisconsin women's hockey team to a 3-2 shootout victory against No. 2 Minnesota Duluth after the top-two teams in women's college hockey tied 1-1 in regulation.
Steffen gave the Badgers (26-2-2, 21-2-2-2 WCHA) a 3-2 lead in the shootout thanks to a rocket that beat the shortside of UMD netminder Maddie Rooney in the 12th round, before Ann-Renee Desbiens stopped the Bulldogs' (20-4-5, 17-4-4-1 WCHA) Lynn Astrup to give UW the extra point in the league standings.
"After 11 players went before me, Maddie Rolfes and I were talking about it on the bench like we might be going soon," Steffen said. "Then Coach (Dan) Koch tapped me on the back and it was my turn to go.
"I don't really have any good moves, I'm not really a forward. I just saw it open and I was like, 'might as well try.' and it went in."
"The big thing is when you tell them," UW head coach Mark Johnson said. "For some kids if they get it too early they'll work themselves up and get nervous. The big is not getting nervous and going in and just figuring it out like a shootout practice, but easier said than done. The hard part is when we miss, they have a chance to win it so that becomes a challenge. When they get excited knowing if they score it's over, so we were in that position eight times so you give a lot of credit to Ann-Renee because the pressure is on her in those scenarios. The early part, in the first three, you might end up winning it but after that the team that shoots second, if the other team is missing, we've got eight chances to win it so, give a lot of credit to Ann-Renee."
It was a battle of the defense as both the Badgers and Bulldog held strong on the blue line. Despite outshooting UMD 19-7 in the first frame, UW couldn't get one past sophomore goaltender Maddie Rooney.
"I thought we might create some more real quality chances," Johnson said. "We had a bunch of them, we had 100 attempted shots but we missed the net 35 times out of those attempts but our two games up (in Duluth) I think she (Rooney) had 45 one night and 43 the next. So it's a matter of tracking the puck hitting the net, trying to create rebounds and getting those second chances. We had a few, I thought we might be able to create some more, but we give them credit. They played fast, they played aggressive, they won a bunch 50-50 battles, so what we end up seeing is good hockey and the pace was pretty good."
The story remained the same throughout the second frame, as neither the Badgers nor Bulldogs could solve the goaltending riddle. After two periods containing plenty of chances generated by an ignited Wisconsin offense, both teams headed into the locker rooms scoreless.
"It's hard to not grip your stick a little harder when the pucks aren't going in for you," senior Sarah Nurse said. "I think the good thing about our team is we keep peppering the net and eventually something's going to go in. I think that's what happened today."
With barely 10 minutes left in regulation, Nurse got the Badgers on the board after rifling the puck top-shelf to beat Rooney and put UW up 1-0.
The Bulldogs responded shortly after, however, as Sydney Brodt snuck one past Desbiens to even things up.
With both teams unable to pull ahead as the third wound down, Wisconsin headed into its third overtime of the season. Despite outshooting the Bulldogs 5-1, the Badgers were unable to come away with a goal and headed to their second shootout of the season.
Both Annie Pankowski and Abby Roque put away their shootout chances, but UMD's Ashleigh Brykaliuk and Sidney Morin did the same to extend the shootout. Eighteen shooters followed unsuccessfully before Steffen potted the winner.
The two teams meet on Sunday in a noon clash at LaBahn Arena. The game, which is sold out, can be seen on the Wisconsin Channel.