Although the Wisconsin women’s hockey team skated to a tie Thursday night against Wayne State, the 2-2 draw certainly felt like a loss. Against a team that was only 3-5-2 heading into the series, the Badgers’ offense struggled to finish chances and failed to find the net in overtime or the shootout.
Despite facing a goalie that had had only won one game all season, the Wisconsin attack was denied on all three opportunities in the shootout and only got two shots on net. Kyla Sanders, who scored one of Wisconsin’s goals earlier in the game, lost control of the puck despite not having any defenders in front of her. According to Sanders, the offensive woes have been a problem all season.
“It’s been a little frustrating,” Sanders said. “We’re still very confident. We just have to play like we’re confident.”
Wayne State’s Julie Herbert scored the shootout’s lone goal, deking right before flipping the puck past freshman goaltender Becca Ruegsegger. The score did not hurt Wisconsin in the standings, however, as shootouts outside of WCHA play do not count toward the final score. Nevertheless, interim head coach Tracey DeKeyser was unhappy with the outcome.
“It’s difficult, because we’re trying to end a problem of not coming out strong and not being able to finish the first night,” DeKeyser said.
Most of the first-night disappointments have been due to a lack of offense in the initial periods, but the Badgers continued to struggle despite a quick strike against Wayne State.
Junior Geena Prough found herself wide open following a pass from linemate Brooke Ammerman along the boards. With no defense in sight, the forward slipped the puck through the five hole of Wayne State’s Lindsay Park.
“We were breaking out of our zone,” Prough said. “I just figured I’d clean the boards and drive it to the middle.”
Wisconsin’s success was short-lived, however, as Wayne State scored midway through the first period. With a man advantage and a crowd in front of Ruegsegger, Wayne State defenseman Chelsea Burnett was able to knock in the equalizer.
“With a minute left, I was pretty confident we were in the right direction,” Sanders said. “It hurts, but we have to bounce back from that.”
The Wisconsin offense failed to score for a 50-minute stretch following its first goal, but with 6:31 remaining in the third period, Sanders put a rebound shot in the net. UW’s Jasmine Giles’ pass to Stefanie McKeough along the blue line set up a clear shot, which Sanders finished.
“It was open net,” Sanders said. “I was right there and put it away.”
During a period Wisconsin has dominated this season, Wayne State scored the game-tying goal with just 1:01 left in the game. The Warriors had an extra attacker on the ice after pulling their goaltender, but according to Ruegsegger, the late goal was unacceptable.
“I just think that I need to make sure I make the big saves,” she said. “I’m not happy with two goals, and we need to rebound tomorrow.”
With no real scoring threats in the overtime period, Wisconsin was forced to settle for a draw with a team that has struggled all season. Like Bemidji State and Robert Morris, Wayne State made up for its lack of size and skill by playing up to five people in front of the net. Although the Badgers have seen the neutralizing style several times this season, they have failed to counter it all season.
“I wasn’t surprised by this game,” DeKeyser said. “That’s what we saw again, and that’s what we continue to see, because that’s how teams keep playing us.”
Despite knowing how the other teams will defend their offense, Wisconsin has continued to play the same style each game.
Only half of UW’s shots have actually reached the net, and not all of the scoring chances have been effective. In addition, the Badgers struggled on the power play, where they have only scored two goals all season. Like most of their other contests, the Badgers outshot their opponent but failed to come out on top.
“I think the scoring opportunities are there; the problem is teams are doing a great job of blocking shots,” DeKeyser said. “Similar pucks have gone in in the past, and they just aren’t going in this year.”