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Minnesota Duluth stops Badgers' unbeaten run, forces final-day showdown for WCHA title

Minnesota Duluth stops Badgers' unbeaten run, forces final-day showdown for WCHA title

From the Look back on State Journal coverage of Badgers women's hockey games in the 2020-21 season series
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The race for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season championship is down to a one-game showdown.

No. 7 Minnesota Duluth forced that with a 4-2 victory over the top-ranked University of Wisconsin women’s team on Friday in Duluth, Minnesota.

Gabbie Hughes put the Bulldogs ahead for good in the final minute of an eventful first period and scored again in the second to bring the Badgers’ unbeaten streak to an end at eight games.

The winner of the final game of the regular season Saturday will take the Julianne Bye Cup as WCHA champion and the No. 1 seed for next week’s WCHA Final Faceoff.

The Badgers (11-3-1) were undefeated in their last 17 games against Minnesota Duluth entering Friday (14-0-3). They haven’t been swept by the Bulldogs since October 2012.

Emma Söderberg made 26 saves for Minnesota Duluth (11-4), which scored three times in the first period.

Lizi Norton’s shot from the left side got past Badgers goaltender Kennedy Blair to tie the game less than two minutes after Nicole LaMantia scored on a power play for UW.

Anna Klein pounced on a rebound to the right of the net to give the Bulldogs the lead three minutes later.

UW’s Brette Pettet scored from the slot later in the opening period but Hughes restored the advantage with 22 seconds left when she shoveled home the puck from the slot.

University of Wisconsin women's hockey coach Mark Johnson talks to the media after a 4-2 loss at Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Video courtesy UW Athletics.

Hughes’ second goal, midway through the second period, put the Badgers in a two-goal hole for the first time since their opening game of the season, a 3-2 loss at Ohio State on Nov. 27.

The four goals allowed by the Badgers was a season high. Blair made 24 saves.

Blair up for award

Blair was named one of eight finalists for the inaugural Women’s Hockey Goalie of the Year Award presented by the Women’s Hockey Commissioners Association.

Blair entered Friday eighth nationally in save percentage (.947) and seventh in goals-against average (1.31). She’s tied for second with five shutouts.

Wisconsin 2 0 0 — 2

Minnesota Duluth 3 1 0 — 4

First period: W — LaMantia 2 (Webster, O’Brien), 5:48 (pp). MD — Norton 5 (Skinner, Van Wieren), 7:20; Klein 10 (Hughes, Stewart), 10:29. W — Pettet 9 (Watts, S. Shirley), 15:32. Penalties: Team, MD, 3:51; S. Shirley, W, 15:54.

Second period: MD — Hughes 8 (Klein, Anderson), 10:45.

Third period penalty: Van Wieren, MD, :44.

Saves: W (Blair 11-8-5) 24; MD (Söderberg 9-8-9) 26. Power plays: W 1-for-2; MD 0-for-1. Att. — 250.

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