For the Wisconsin women’s hockey team, it’s already time for a new broom as the Badgers, once again, disposed of another WCHA foe in sweeping fashion.
This weekend’s victim, the Minnesota State Mavericks, came to the Kohl Center sporting a below .500 record (2-3-1, 1-3-0 WCHA).
The Mavericks were not supposed to give Wisconsin much trouble, but they hung tough for much of the series.
On Saturday the Badgers eventually topped Minnesota State 6-1 on the shoulders of two goals by junior Hilary Knight and sophomore Brianna Decker, but before the third period began the game was still very much in question.
In the first period the Badgers struck first as Hilary Knight was the beneficiary of her teammates’ hard work.
“The line ahead of me made an amazing pressure play and just forced the girl to cough the puck right up the middle. I was just in the right place at the right time,” Knight said.
Though before the period ended Minnesota’s sophomore center Lauren Smith struck back with a tally of her own, beating Wisconsin goaltender Becca Ruegsegger.
The Badgers dominated the second period as they outshot the Mavericks 16-7. If not for some great play by the Minnesota State’s goaltender the game may have been out of reach early.
“I thought in the second period we created a lot of good opportunities. We had some real quality grade A chances, and their goaltender was making saves, very good saves,” head coach Mark Johnson said.
Though, Minnesota State’s net minder freshman Danielle Butters, couldn’t stop the Wisconsin attack for long.
The Badgers exploded for four goals in the third period highlighted by two power play goals within the very first few minutes.
Decker believes that the difference was not just about the puck finally finding the back of the net.
“I think that we totally possessed the puck a lot more and took care of it, especially in our [defensive] zone. We didn’t spend too much time in our [defensive] zone, also” Decker said.
A 6-1 final in game two of the series must have felt comfortable for the Badgers, considering the tight game they played with the Mavericks the day before.
On Friday, the Badgers held on to a one-goal lead to edge Minnesota State 3-2 in front of a large crowd on Kids Day at the Kohl Center.
Early it appeared the Badgers might run away and hide from the Mavericks but they were never able to land that knock-out punch.
“When you give up a goal in the first shift there, it seemed that we didn’t react to it very well and then it becomes a hockey game. You get into special teams both ways, you don’t get into a lot of flow,” Johnson said.
Part of the scoring issue for the Badgers was the 1-2-2 forecheck Minnesota State employed. They clogged up their own zone, making it hard for the Badgers to find any clear shots to the net.
But for Johnson, one aspect of the game stood out to him as the most salient of problems.
“The big thing is you have got to continue to compete and you have got to try to play for 60 minutes. Tonight we didn’t do a good job of playing for 60 minutes,” Johnson said.
Wisconsin took control of the game early, pounding 23 shots on net in the first period compared to three from Minnesota State.
Junior center Brooke Ammerman was the first to strike.
“Hilary moved it down over to Decker and down to [Meghan] Duggan and then right across. Then that girl bit towards Duggan and then it was just an easy tap in,” Ammerman said.
Later in the period Brooke assisted her sister, freshman Brittany Ammerman, on a goal of her own giving the Badgers an early 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
But a game that appeared to be heading towards a blow out, quickly turned into a nail-biter.
“They play a very disciplined game and they’re on you a lot, so it’s just a lot of passing and going hard to the net,” Brooke Ammerman said.
That disciplined game brought the Mavericks within one goal of the Badgers on two separate occasions as they scored their first goals early in the second and third periods.
However, even after pulling their goaltender late in the third, the Mavericks were never able to score the equalizer.
Johnson takes many positives out of the game, even though he felt the team could have played much better.
“We won the game and that’s obviously the most important thing. That’s the way were playing it. If you have adversity, if you make mistakes and you learn from them then those things that you went through are good because you became 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 try and be consistent,” Johnson said.