The No. 1-ranked Wisconsin women's hockey team played its season opening series this weekend, fighting to a 1-1 split against a tough Minnesota-Duluth team.
The Badgers won Sunday's game at the Kohl Center in dramatic fashion with a 4–3 overtime victory. With UW trailing 3–2 in the third period, freshman forward Tia Hanson scored her first goal as a Badger when she put a loose rebound into the net, tying the score at 3–3 with less than four minutes remaining.
Wisconsin completed the comeback victory just 53 seconds into the overtime period. With the two teams playing four-on-four due to offsetting penalties, Badgers' forward Sara Bauer deflected defenseman Bobbi-Jo Slusar's shot from the point for the winning goal. It was Bauer's first goal of the season, with assists on the winning goal being credited to Slusar and forward Jinelle Zaugg.
Much of the game, however, didn't go the Badgers' way. After freshman forward Erika Lawler scored her first career goal on a breakaway for the Badgers, the Bulldogs responded with a pair of goals before the end of the period.
A slap shot from the stick of Bulldogs' forward Michaela Lanzl tied the game at the 14:19 mark of the first period, and then defenseman Rachael Drazan put the Bulldogs ahead a little more than two and a half minutes later with an even-strength goal.
Drazan threw a weak, fluttering shot on goal. Screened by her own defense, the Badgers' senior goaltender Meghan Horras was unable to see the puck until it had reached the back of the net for a Bulldog goal.
The Badgers dodged a bullet in the middle of the third period while trying to come back from the 3-2 deficit. The Bulldogs launched a barrage of shots, three of which hit the pipe in the span of just two minutes. Fortunately for UW, none of the shots reached the back of the net. This seemed to be the turning point of the game, as the Badgers used that fortune to shift the momentum in their favor and score the final two goals.
In contrast to Sunday's victory, Saturday's game was a game of missed opportunities and hard luck. The Badgers lost 5-2 despite out-shooting the Bulldogs 36 to 25 in addition to receiving 16 minutes of powerplay time. With the game tied 2-2 at the start of the third period, UW freshman forward Kayla Hagan missed a penalty shot, which was promptly followed by an injury to junior forward Meaghan Mikkelson. Bulldogs' forward Micheala Lanzl received a two minute penalty for cross-checking Mikkelson, who went hard into the boards. She left Saturday's game after taking several minutes to get up off the ice and was unable to play Sunday.
"[Mikkelson] won't be around for a while," head coach Mark Johnson said. "That's obviously a hole we had to fill tonight and [she's] somebody that we'll miss, but that's part of our business and part of our game. But she'll be out for a little while."
Due to the penalty on Lanzl and an unrelated penalty, the Badgers received a minute and a half of a five-on-three advantage, but were unable to convert the opportunity into goals. The momentum then shifted to the Bulldogs, who scored an ensuing powerplay goal and even-strength goal less than two minutes apart, making the score 4-2. They would also add an open-net goal in the closing seconds of the period after Bauer was robbed by Bulldogs' goalie Riitta Schaublin.
Despite the disappointing loss Saturday, Johnson was quick to point to the bright sides of both games, finding reason for optimism going into next weekend's home match-up against Vermont.
"The whole thing is about seeing who likes playing against the competition and we played six young players tonight and last night," Johnson said. "So hopefully we'll be able to roll from this, and they [the Bulldogs] are one of the better teams in the country. Last night [Saturday] was a very good game … I thought we played well; I thought our powerplay did not do well."
"Tonight [Sunday] was sort of a different game. Both teams played well at certain points and we were able to make a comeback and win it in overtime so hopefully that will springboard toward our next game."