The University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team started off its postseason play on a strong note. On Friday, the Badgers beat Ohio State to the tune of 7-0 and capped off the WCHA playoff series with a 4-1 victory on Saturday at the Eagle’s Nest in Verona, Wis.
“We didn’t have to play Sunday, so it was a great weekend. … Friday we came out with a lot of energy and played very well from start to finish and, as I told the team after Friday night’s game, Saturday’s going to be the toughest game of the year because you’re going to try to eliminate somebody, try to end somebody’s season,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said at his weekly press conference. “But we did what we needed to do, got a nice power play goal in the third period, and then Hilary scores an Ovechkin-type empty netter goal to really seal it up.”
The “Ovechkin-type” goal Johnson referred to was credited to Hilary Knight, whose goal with 19:24 left in the third period, with an assist by Alycia Matthews, helped seal the victory for the Badgers.
“The way she was laying down on the ice with her hands and stick, that was the first thing I thought of,” Johnson said. “Her putting it in, obviously we were relieved because we were up 3-1 at the time.”
Stellar season nets multiple Badgers individual recognition
Three Badgers were named the list of top 10 finalists up for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the best player in women’s college hockey. The list includes UW players Knight, a sophomore, Erika Lawler, a senior and net minder Jessie Vetter, who is also a senior.
Both Lawler and Vetter have found much success in their tenure playing for the Badgers. Lawler was elected captain this year and leads the nation with 39 assists and second in the NCAA in average assists per game with 1.11.
Vetter, the team’s assistant captain from Cottage Grove, Wis., is tied for the school and NCAA record for shutouts in a season with 12. She currently ranks third in the nation and second in the WCHA in goals-against average with 1.29. However, with those stats, Johnson doesn’t know if it is even her best season.
“I don’t know if you can distinct and say this [year] has been her best, but you look at our game Saturday, she is doing things to keep us in the game,” Johnson said of Vetter. “The one thing she has been able to do is she’s been consistent over her four years. … I think her whole career has been a good one.”
Upcoming weekend brings intriguing matchups
Since the WHCA houses most of the top tier teams in women’s college hockey, the weekend’s playoff matchups should provide interesting matchups of some of the league’s elite teams. Johnson talked about the quality and importance of the upcoming weekend.
“You look at the teams that are participating, three of them are in the top four teams in the country,” Johnson said. “Yeah, you’re going to see some pretty good hockey.”
Johnson also spoke about the importance of this weekend’s games and his team’s approach.
“The great thing about the playoffs, for those four teams, you have the right to play one more game,” Johnson said. “That’s our approach for the next four or five days as we prepare for Duluth. You have the right to play one more game; if you win that one, you get an opportunity to play for a championship.”