Halloween wasn’t the only scary part of the weekend. WCHA rival Minnesota State-Mankato forced the Wisconsin women’s hockey team to play the ugliest series it has had all season.
Wisconsin started out strong on Friday afternoon with two goals in the first period, but if it weren’t for Brooke Ammerman’s second power play goal of the night, things could have ended quite differently from the close 3-2 win the Badgers were able to fight for.
“We can’t always win them pretty,” Ammerman said. “It was an ugly game.”
The Badgers finally got back to their type of hockey in the third period of Saturday’s game scoring four goals in the first eight minutes of play. The four periods of hockey between the first and final periods of the series definitely weren’t the strongest the Badgers have played.
For the No. 1 ranked Badger squad a little adversity, while tough, isn’t a terrible thing.
Although Wisconsin has been able to keep its perfect record alive, Mankato proved to be a tough team that provided quite a few learning opportunities for Wisconsin.
The Badgers have been having issues staying out of the box this season, but with six penalties on the weekend the Mavericks were only able to capitalize on one in a five-on-three. Their penalty kill may have improved from the first couple of series, but the Badgers were having a hard time finding the back of the net.
“When a goalie is hot there isn’t much you can do,” junior forward Hilary Knight said. “Some pucks bounce in and some don’t.”
Wisconsin didn’t look like itself and for the first time this season it looked like a young team making some freshman mistakes.
Making uncharacteristic turnovers and not setting up a consistently aggressive offensive attack, the Badgers weren’t able to dominate the Mavericks as easily as they’ve dominated the ice all season.
“We talked about those things we did in the first period: puck movement, getting the puck in deep and moving the puck,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “We seemed to become complacent, like we played 20 minutes and that’s the end of the hockey game. We start hanging on the pucks and try to beat people in one-on-one situations you run the risk of turning it over. When you turn it over the other team is going to get scoring opportunities and that’s what happened. Before you know it, it’s a one goal game.”
A one-goal lead is pretty scary especially when the Badgers weren’t skating like themselves, Johnson doesn’t mind the mistakes as long as the squad learns from them.
“We won the game, that’s obviously the most important thing,” Johnson said. “That’s why we’re playing it. If you have adversity and you make mistakes and you learn from them, those things you went through are good. You become better by going through them. It’s not always going to be pretty, you’re not always going to play your best hockey, but the goal is to be consistent. [Friday night] there were some inconsistencies we’ll address.
“We’re our own worst enemies in regards to not taking care of the puck and creating turnovers for them in areas where you don’t need to turn the puck over.”
Despite some inconsistencies on the weekend Wisconsin was still able to finish out its home slate with a perfect record and a boost of confidence as they head out on the road.
Sophomore forward Brianna Decker – who scored Saturday’s game winning goal – noted the importance of the wins, particularly considering who their opponents were.
“It was really important especially with the teams that we played,” Decker said. “We played three WCHA teams and we swept them. Then when we played RPI it was important to sweep them as well. It’s nice to start off 8-0 at home.”