BRYAN FAUST/Herald photoComing off a series split against conference rival St. Cloud State, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team knows how well they played. Rather than being disappointed about the 1-0 loss last Saturday, the team realizes that sometimes the puck just won’t go into the net.”Overall I thought the weekend was pretty good,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “I thought we played very well on Saturday, we actually played better than we did during our victory [on Friday]. We created a lot of opportunities but unfortunately we couldn’t get the puck by St. Cloud’s goaltender … and the goal they scored actually deflected off of one of our defender’s shoulder. It was one of those afternoons where we didn’t give up hardly any scoring opportunities.”Despite all their energy and outshooting St. Cloud 36 – 12, Wisconsin just could not get the puck by St. Cloud goaltender Lauri St. Jacques, who was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week. She tallied 65 saves on the weekend and recorded her first career shutout, which was the first time the Badgers were shutout this season.”It was unfortunate that we lost the game but more importantly we played well,” Johnson continued. “We had good energy and we had good bounce and those are the things we talked about when we left.”What particularly impressed him was the play of the defense and the play of the goaltending, both of which have been stellar all season. Their combined play has resulted in Wisconsin allowing just 42 goals this season, which is the lowest in the WCHA.The defense also does its fair share of contributing to the offense, as junior defender Bobbi-Jo Slusar leads the conference in defensive points scored with 29. Junior defender Meaghan Mikkelson is third in the conference amongst defensive scorers with 20 points.”I think if the defense plays the way they did Saturday then we’ll do very well,” Johnson said. “They move the puck well, they make good decisions and eliminate a lot of time and space on the ice … and they also move the puck up to the forwards very well.””We limited their shots and we’re doing really well communicating,” Slusar said. “And our breakouts out of our zone are coming along really well … and we’re doing very well on the penalty kill. If we continue to do what we’ve been doing, I think we’ll continue to do well.”Likewise, the goaltending has also been excellent. Senior goalie Meghan Horras is amongst the best in the WCHA in save percentage and goals against average. Most importantly, she has the highest winning percentage, with a record of 13-1-1.What makes the strong goaltending even more impressive is that the team uses all three goalies, with Horras, junior Christine Dufour and freshman Jessie Vetter all splitting time between the pipes, which can be difficult for goalies who are used to playing on a regular basis. Horras is arguably the primary goalie because she has the most minutes played with 890.”Well we don’t have any control over when we’re going to start,” Dufour said. “There’s nothing you can do about it, so when you get in the net you just try to do your best.”Another challenge that the goaltenders often face is a lack of action during the course of a game, which sometimes makes it difficult for the goalie to keep focus.In one game against dismal North Dakota in late October, the Badgers limited the Fighting Sioux to just eight shots on goal.”It’s hard to focus when there isn’t much action around you,” Dufour said. “But I try to concentrate on what the other team is doing, staying ready and keeping my angles right.””I just do little things,” Horras said. “I try moving around, keeping my eyes on the puck and moving with the puck, which helps.”While the defense and goaltending may be overshadowed by Wisconsin’s high-powered offense, they are just as vital to the team’s success. This is why players like Horras, Dufour, Mikkelson and Slusar are just as vital to the team as its high scorers like Sarah Bauer and Jinelle Zaugg.Of course, when it comes down to it against the No. 4 Gophers this weekend, it will take all of those players working together to take down the Badgers’ border rivals.