Women's hockey: Second to none

Freshman Jessie Vetter stars in net as UW dominates Minnesota to win program's first national title

The outstanding play of Jessie Vetter, coupled with a productive power-play unit, allowed Wisconsin to taste the ultimate success: a national championship.

The second-seeded Wisconsin women's hockey team defeated Minnesota 3-0 to win its first-ever national championship Sunday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis in what was essentially a home game for the fourth-seeded Gophers.

Vetter, a redshirt freshman who was named the most outstanding player of the tournament, was nothing short of spectacular, making 31 saves in just her 12th career start in helping the Badgers become the first team ever to shut out an opponent in the NCAA Championship game.

With the win, Wisconsin (36-4-1) is the first team not from Minnesota to win the championship; otherwise Minnesota-Duluth (first three championships) and Minnesota (2004 and '05) have divvied up the NCAA-sponsored championships.

Wisconsin's power play unit, too, was spectacular, going 2-for-4 on the man advantage, with both goals coming from sophomore forward Jinelle Zaugg. And the Badgers killed off all five of Minnesota's power plays to deflate the Gophers (29-11-1).

Senior forward Cyndy Kenyon took a pass above the crease from junior defenseman Bobbi-Jo Slusar, and put a shot on goal. Zaugg collected the rebounded and deposited the puck into the net for Wisconsin's first goal on a Badger power play at 9:56 in the first.

Less than one minute later, senior forward Nikki Burish took a shot on net from the high slot. Senior forward Grace Hutchins was waiting in the low slot and got a stick on the puck, tipping it past Minnesota freshman netminder Brittony Chartier. Chartier finished with 16 saves and three goals allowed.

During another Wisconsin power play midway through the second period, Zaugg fired a one-timer from the high slot that went past Chartier's glove for Wisconsin's final goal with 15 seconds left on the man advantage.

Patty Kazmaier winner Sara Bauer provided an assist on Zaugg's second goal. Her one point may not jump off the box score, but she chased down loose pucks and used her deft stick-handling abilities to help keep the Gophers at bay.

In the battle of the freshman goaltenders, Vetter clearly came out on top. A veritable wall throughout the playoffs, Vetter held her composure early on despite Minnesota's nearly constant pressure. She maintained that composure throughout, facing shot after shot in the third period. The Gophers outshot the Badgers 31-19 overall and 14-4 in the third period alone but none of that mattered in the end. Not with Vetter in net.

Vetter gave up just one goal in the NCAA tournament, letting one in against Mercyhurst in the first round. She finished the season riding a 201:04 shutout streak and becomes the first freshman and the first goaltender to be named a tournament most outstanding player. Slusar and Zaugg were also named to the all-tournament team.

Vetter finished her freshman campaign with five shutouts in just 12 starts.

Fans who want to welcome the Badgers back to Madison can do so at 6 p.m. Monday at the Kohl Center. The gates open at 5:30 p.m. and fans should enter the Kohl Center through Gate A. The program will take place in the Gate A lobby. Admission is free.

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