Vetter-en performance: Wisconsin wins 1st title
MINNEAPOLIS — Before this weekend, there had never been a shutout in women’s Frozen Four history. Now it’s happened twice.UW freshman goaltender Jessie Vetter has played in only 12 games this year and didn’t even make her first start until Dec. 5. Yet it was Vetter who was announced as the starter before Friday’s semifinal and Sunday afternoon’s championship game.The Wisconsin native did not disappoint, as she stopped all 58 shots that came her way this weekend en route to the University of Wisconsin’s first-ever women’s hockey national championship.Following the Badgers’ 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Gophers in the championship game, Vetter was named the Frozen Four’s MVP for her outstanding play on the weekend.”I did not think I would be starting this year,” Vetter said. “I was just looking for a chance to get into the rotation, and I knew that if I worked hard I would get a chance to play. I was just so excited the coaches decided my time was now because I just love these live-or-die games. I thrive on them.”Playing in the Gophers’ backyard at Mariucci Arena, players and coaches alike knew the importance of scoring the first goal and keeping the Minnesota faithful in their seats.”Every time they score, it brings excitement to the building,” UW head coach Mark Johnson said. “Thanks to Jessie [Vetter], we kept them off the scoreboard and the crowd out of the game. To score the first goal playing in Minneapolis against the Gophers was huge for us.”UW forward Jinelle Zaugg took care of that at just 9:56 into the first period. Zaugg did what she does best, cleaning up a juicy rebound surrendered by UM goaltender Brittany Chartier.”My job a lot of times is to stand in front of the net and screen the goalie and get rebounds,” Zaugg said. “I think we were fortunate to get a good bounce, and the goalie was out of position because it was a great shot from the point, so I just found the puck and put it in the net.”The power-play goal was Zaugg’s team-leading 23rd of the year, and, according to Johnson, gave the Badgers the early spark they needed.”In playoff games, your special teams has to be good, and you have to score what I consider timely goals,” Johnson said. “When you score, it brings energy to your team, and it brings a little excitement to your bench. And, most importantly, it settles you down a little bit.”From that point on, the Badgers never looked back, as senior forward Grace Hutchins deflected a Nikki Burish slap shot over Chartier’s shoulder to round out the first-period scoring. The goal, which came 30 seconds after Zaugg’s, gave the Badgers the second-fastest consecutive goals scored by teammates in Frozen Four history.At 9:08 into the second period, Zaugg added another power-play goal, and with the unflappable Vetter in net, that’s all the Badgers would need to secure their first-ever NCAA title.”It’s definitely much easier staying calm with a three-goal lead, but I knew I just had to stay in the game and just make the saves I needed to make down the stretch,” Vetter said. “I knew my team was going to crash the net and get all the rebounds out of there because we were all defense once we got the big lead.”When time had finally run out, the Badger players and coaches poured onto the ice and celebrated together with the championship trophy. The UW Band played the classics as a strong contingent of Badger fans joined in on the celebration.”I’m just really excited and proud of the young ladies. We talked in September about making a commitment and climbing to the top of the mountain, and we knew there would be hurdles along the way, but we met each one of them,” Johnson said in the postgame press conference. “I told the team before the game that you get an opportunity to play for the ultimate goal, and that’s all you can ask for, and we were fortunate enough to come out and put forth a good enough effort to win.”In Friday’s semi-final game, the Badgers upended the St. Lawrence Saints 1-0 in a battle between two red-hot goaltenders. SLU goaltender Jessica Moffat stood on her head until UW freshman forward Tia Hanson went top corner on a quick snap shot for the game’s only goal. This was Hanson’s second game-winner in as many games.”I was just trying to get a shot on net, and it happened to go top corner,” Hanson said. “After the last game, scoring in the goal in double OT in the quarterfinal, I didn’t think I would score a bigger goal, but this one has to rank right up there.”Vetter again was nothing short of spectacular in the biggest game of her young career up to that point. In the second period, Vetter made unquestionably the save of the weekend, proving luck was on Bucky’s side. After giving up a rebound on the initial shot, Vetter fell backward and swatted the puck out of the crease with her glove hand just before it crossed the goal line.Hours later, the Gophers beat No. 1-ranked New Hampshire, setting up the border battle of epic proportions.The Badgers were successful against Minnesota all season long, going 5-1-0 against the Gophers this year.”We’re trying to make a name for Wisconsin,” Zaugg said. “We said in the locker room that Wisconsin is the new state of hockey.”And with the national championship trophy now resting comfortably in Madison, it’s hard to argue.