It was certainly an emotional day for hockey.
Sunday, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team honored six seniors in its last home game of the regular season. Later, the team was presented with the WCHA Championship Trophy. In between all of that, there were 60 minutes of hockey to be played.
Talk about an emotional roller coaster.
After shutting out North Dakota Friday 5-0, Wisconsin knew it would have a physical fight on its hands Saturday. In the end, the Badgers convincingly sent the Fighting Sioux home with an 8-4 win.
Who better to seal the win than senior captain Meghan Duggan?
Already up 4-1 13 minutes into the second period, the Badgers were on a power play when sophomore Brianna Decker broke through the Fighting Sioux defense and fired a quick pass in the slot to Duggan, who beat UND netminder Jorid Dagfinrud for what would become the game-winning goal.
“Anytime the puck is going to the net, if you can redirect it any which way, it makes it harder for them to stop it, so it just went in my favor, I guess,” Duggan said.
Despite all the distractions surrounding the game, head coach Mark Johnson was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I like the way we started. Had a lot of things going on, a lot of distractions, to come out and score a couple quick goals especially the second one on the power play, it was good,” Johnson said. “In the second period, you don’t see too many times when it goes back and forth. It’s a good game for a lot of reasons. It’s senior day, kids scoring and playing. When you get to 8-3, it’s pretty much over; you just have to run the clock out and hope that nobody gets hurt. Anytime you get eight, you should win.”
With eight goals, it seemed like everyone was getting in on the action. Out of 10 dressed forwards, six different Badgers had a goal on the afternoon.
While Duggan was the only senior to score, she and Decker each had two goals.
“We did well in our D-zone and I think that’s where everything started,” Decker said. “From our defense to Brooke [Ammerman] and Duggan, they broke me out well and I just happened to get a couple breaks and hop on it.”
Decker also noted Duggan’s success, as well as making sure they won it for the seniors.
“We’ve been playing together the whole season, since day one,” Decker said. “I think our chemistry, it’s just continually building. I think she was pretty excited and made sure she went out on a big one. I told her a couple times I just want to make this season the best for her. When we went out there, we tried to not make it a distraction, but also realize that those are our seniors and play for them, especially today.”
Honoring all the seniors, Johnson started the game with an all-senior lineup (of those who dressed).
Getting her first career start, senior Carla Pentimone took in every moment with her fellow seniors.
“That was exciting for us,” Duggan said. “That was something we all felt pretty strongly about and wanted her in there. She’s a huge part of this team. Whether she shows up in the lineup any weekend at all, it doesn’t matter. It was really special for her to get out there. She had an outstanding shift, we almost scored a goal. It was just great for her to get out there, and I’m really excited that she got that opportunity.”
North Dakota appeared to not stand a chance Friday night as Wisconsin skated to a convincing 5-0 win.
Despite starting slowly, it didn’t take the Badgers long to gain control.
“Once we got our legs under us, we were kind of a train throughout the entire game.” Duggan said.
Already up four goals with 12 minutes left in the third period, Duggan wanted to make the most of her final regular season series at the Kohl Center.
Off a pass from Decker in the corner, Duggan was set up in the slot and knocked the puck past Dagfinrud to put UW up 5-0 and earn a hat trick on the night.
“I honestly have to credit all three of those goals to my linemates,” Duggan said. “I think Brooke and Decker had outstanding games tonight. Two of the goals, Brooke literally put the puck off my stick and I was the lucky one there to redirect it. The last one, too, both of them, they bring the puck out of the corner and I end up banging it in off the crease.”
“You have to get a little dirty once in a while and that’s going to be in front of the net,” Johnson added. “If you’re willing to go in there to create a screen or look for rebounds, generally you’ll get rewarded.”
Shutting out a top-10 team 5-0 is just one indicator of how well the Badgers played Friday.
Wisconsin has certainly had an impressive season, but in Friday’s game, it seemed as though the squad was impossibly stronger.
“Our team as a whole – our forwards, to the defense, right down to Rigsby in net – we played outstanding,” Duggan said. “We had great back-checking by our forwards, solid performance by our defense and Rigsby stops a big break away at the end of the second period there that we can feed off of. Just a great game all-around as a team. I think it would have been tough for any team to beat us.”