The inconsistent play of the Wisconsin women’s hockey team continued this weekend, as the offense only managed three regulation goals against a weak Robert Morris team.
Sophomore Brooke Ammerman wristed the game winner in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime thriller, but the team still only earned a series split after Robert Morris goaltender Daneca Butterfield denied the Badger offense in Friday’s 3-1 loss.
What makes the series split so frustrating for the Badgers is that Wisconsin has the ability to beat any team in the country, as it showed in a sweep of then-No. 2 Minnesota last weekend. But with losses to Bemidji State and Robert Morris, it is still hard to tell the long term direction of the team.
For the fourth time in five series, Wisconsin lost the weekend opener. The Badgers have won each series finale this year, but according to Ammerman, the trend has become a source of frustration for the team.
“We really should try and break that habit,” Ammerman said. “We need to come in that Friday afternoon game and just expect they are going to play hard.”
Robert Morris, which came into the series with a 3-5-0 record, played a style of defense that was not particularly sophisticated, but effective.
“They played basically the whole team in front of their net,” DeKeyser said. “If we’re not specific about where we’re shooting or we have our heads down, you’re going to most likely hit one of them.”
Although Robert Morris plays a predictable style of dumping the puck and chasing it down, Wisconsin was unable to counteract with a different strategy. Saige Pacholok, who scored Wisconsin’s lone goal on Friday, said the offensive woes are unacceptable.
“One is not good enough for us right now,” Pacholok said. “We need to play a little bit more smart and make our passes instead of maybe trying to force plays.”
Wisconsin had no choice but to play aggressive at the end of the game, as it trailed 2-1 in the final minutes. In need of a quick score, the Badgers were unable to take their time to set up quality shots, and Robert Morris made them pay by blocking almost every shot in the closing minutes.
Part of what has forced the Badgers to take such an aggressive nature is their inability to strike quickly. Despite a winning record, Wisconsin has trailed in the majority of their games.
“The energy level was just not where it needed to be in the first and second period,” DeKeyser said of Friday’s loss. “We need to take a better advantage of using our points in getting shots from there.”
The Badgers actually outshot Robert Morris by significant margins in both games, but were unable to find the net enough to be effective. Wisconsin outshot Robert Morris 63 to 42 over the series, but the Colonials totaled five goals to Wisconsin’s four.
In preparation for the weekend, the Badgers looked at tape from an early October game in which Minnesota-Duluth doubled RMU’s shot total, but found a way to lose. According to DeKeyser, the Badgers were ready for a similar game.
“We talked about that between periods and referenced it,” DeKeyser said. “We expected a fight just like that and got it.”
Regardless of how ready they are for their opponents, the Badgers know they need to start winning the first game of each series if they want to maintain their national respect, especially against inferior teams like Robbert Morris.
“We definitely need to win those games,” Wisconsin goaltender Becca Ruegsegger said. “It just shows we need to do the little things right along with the big things.”