An excellent season came to the brink of conclusion Saturday.
Wisconsin's women's hockey team could not handle defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association semifinal Saturday, losing 3-1 to the Bulldogs at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn.
The loss was only Wisconsin's second since Dec. 5, but it more or less ended the team's hopes of making its first-ever Frozen Four. The Badgers entered the game ranked fifth in the PairWise rankings, which attempt to mirror the NCAA's postseason selection process. The Bulldogs, who have won three consecutive national titles, entered the contest ranked sixth and, like Wisconsin, needed a win Saturday to keep any dream of another repeat alive.
Duluth (20-11-2) lives to fight another day and will play regular-season champion and national No. 1 Minnesota in the WCHA Final Five championship game Sunday at 4:05 p.m. CST.
Wisconsin (24-6-3) still has one game left in its season, the third-place game against Ohio State, which lost to the Gophers 5-1 in the second semifinal game Saturday. The Badgers and Buckeyes will drop the puck at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
Wisconsin cracked the scoreboard first Saturday, when junior defender Molly Engstrom found the net just one minute, 37 seconds into the contest. Just 96 seconds later, though, Bulldog junior defender Larissa Luther found a loose puck in front of the net and beat Badger sophomore netminder Meghan Horras to tie the game.
The Badgers continued to skate with Duluth for the first 20 minutes of the contest, but were dominated in the decisive second period, as the Bulldogs outshot them 17-2. Both of Wisconsin's shots came in the first four minutes of the period.
Duluth, meanwhile, created plenty of offense in the frame, with the top line of freshman forward Noemie Marin and 2002 Olympians senior Jenny Potter and junior Caroline Ouellette, combining for two goals. Potter netted the first, less than five minutes into the period and Marin claimed the second. With her two assists Saturday, Ouellette now has 47 this season and has a point in 14 consecutive games. She has 76 total points this season, while Potter has 74.
Score by period
Shots on goal by period
UMD 1 - Larissa Luther (7) from Nora Tallus (13) and Julianne Vasichek (13) at 3:13
UMD 2 - Jenny Potter (36) from Caroline Ouellette (46) and Noemie Marin (5) at 4:37
UMD 3 - Marin (15) from Potter (38) and Ouellette (47) at 15:46
UMD - Riita Schaublin (60:00) - 20 saves, 1 goal allowed
UW - Meghan Horras (58:38) - 35, 3