Winning streaks and the Wisconsin women’s hockey team have become synonymous beings as the Badgers currently tout a six-game unbeaten run.
After two consecutive victories against Bemidji State Saturday and Sunday, 3-2 and 1-0 respectively, the No. 1 Badgers rounded out their record to 24-2-2, 18-2-2 in the WCHA and currently sit atop the conference standings.
In conjunction with Saturday’s game, the Kohl Center played host to its third annual “Fill the Bowl” event, which saw 12,402 fans attend, setting a new NCAA single-game attendance record. The record-breaking night saw attendance numbers go up nearly 2,500 from last year’s event.
“Seeing shuttle buses driving down from Stadium Bar, seeing people outside the stadium waiting for tickets, you just knew it was going to be a special atmosphere when you walked into the rink that night,” associate head coach Dan Koch said at his Monday press conference.
The event itself, which included free attendance for UW students, partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank to raise one dollar for every ticket purchased. Fans were also encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for donation. In total, more than 12,000 dollars were raised for the Madison area food bank.
As the team heads into the final section of their conference schedule, each game is gaining importance, especially for a Badger team that has lofty expectations for the approaching postseason.
“[We] are very aware of the support that we get from the community here,” Koch said. “It really helps, you know, give you some energy. If you’re feeling a little tired from the night before or something, it just gives you that boost to step up and perform again.”
Throughout the season, the defense has earned rave reviews, and Saturday night’s shutout win was no exception as the Badgers posted their seventh shutout of the season.
Koch had nothing but praise for the tremendous depth displayed by this edition of the team, and said he believes it has played a big part in its success thus far.
“I don’t know if there has been a group as deep,” Koch said. “Really, we have eight defensemen that could step in and play any weekend. I think from top to bottom it’s a very deep group, a very skilled group, and I hope by the end of the season they get recognized for how strong they are.”
As a result, strong defensive play has opened up room for the offense – which features one of the nation’s leading goal scorers in junior Brianna Decker – to function more effectively as well.
In their current home stand, the Badgers won all four games, scoring 10 goals in the process, including two games that went into overtime.
The two overtime victories have shown the Badgers’ ability to close out close games – something they struggled with earlier in the season, as they only managed ties in their two previous overtime appearances.
“It is the message we have been sending to them all year as far as being competitive consistently and going out each period, each shift, and not worrying so much about the score but more about effort and competing,” Koch said. “Doing those unselfish things … becomes very important.”
As the Badgers move forward, they will be expected to keep up their impressive record, as they face off with the bottom-feeders in the WCHA standings. Wisconsin faces Minnesota State (7-21-0, 3-19-0 WCHA), finishing off a six-game homestand before hitting the road again against St. Cloud State (5-12-2, 4-18-0 WCHA) the following weekend.
With only six games remaining in the WCHA season, the Badgers now have their sights set on claiming home advantage throughout the postseason.
“We are hoping to compete for home ice advantage as we continue into the WCHA playoffs and then into the NCAAs,” Koch said. “In the past, we’ve had great crowds for those quarterfinal games of the NCAAs. If you bring a team in … they just aren’t used to seeing crowds like that.”