The University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team will look to earn its first victory in LaBahn Arena in a nonconference matchup this weekend.
Wisconsin (3-3-2, 1-3-2 WCHA), riding a four-game winless streak, will take on New Hampshire (3-2, 1-2 Hockey East) in a two-game series beginning Friday.
Although UW has not won a game in two weeks, the Badgers were able to break their three-game scoring drought Sunday at home against Bemidji State.
Head coach Mark Johnson said he is happy with the way his team finished last weekend with a tie and shootout victory.
“Overall our effort has been good,” Johnson said. “Especially in Sunday’s game, we had a lot of opportunities, a lot of chances, but came up a little bit short. Our third period was really solid. After six periods, … your best one is the last one; that shows a lot of good signs.”
Wisconsin has been getting plenty of opportunities to score as of late, outpacing Bemidji State 72-44 in shots on goal. But UW was unable to score in its first matchup with Bemidji State before putting three goals on the board in Sunday’s game.
Sophomore forward Blayre Turnbull said she is happy with the way her team played offensively Sunday but knows there is still plenty of work to be done.
“Our performance on Sunday was pretty good, but we could still put the puck in the net a bit more,” Turnbull said. “This week we really need to just focus on bearing all of the rebounds and getting off good shots within the slot and not too many shots from the perimeter.”
It was obvious the team let out a collective sigh of relief when Wisconsin was able to finally score Sunday after being shut out for three straight games. The Badgers were then able to apply more pressure offensively and moved the puck with more confidence.
Turnbull said he believes the team has some momentum going into this weekend after outshooting its opponent and scoring three times in its last outing.
“I think we have a lot of momentum and more confidence now that we are finally putting the puck in the net more,” Turnbull said. “Coming off the (shootout) win and of course it is a home game again so that is always good too.”
New Hampshire is coming off of a two-game split with No. 6 Boston College last weekend. But Johnson said he is looking forward to the challenge the Wildcats present.
“It should be a fun series,” Johnson said. “We go back a few years. They usually have a pretty fast team. They are generally pretty quick; they have good skill. So it will be a good test for us getting away from our conference games.”
The Badgers last played the Wildcats in the 2008-09 season, when Wisconsin won both games of a two-game series.
UW’s defense will have its work cut out for it against UNH’s high-powered offense, which has scored 22 goals through just six games.
The Wildcats’ offense has been led this season by freshman forward and Minnesota native Sara Carlson, who has collected four goals and two assists.
Wisconsin’s defensive squad has been solid this year, giving up no more than two goals in all its games before Sunday, when it allowed three goals to the Beavers.
Senior defenseman Jordan Brickner said the defensive squad needs to work on keeping the opponent off its side of the ice.
“We need to work on getting [the puck] out of our defensive zone as fast as we can,” Brickner said. “We need to really control it in the offensive zone and have a lot of poise on the point.”
And one thing Wisconsin will certainly look to change this weekend is penalties.
The Badgers committed six penalties last weekend, giving the opponent 12 minutes of power play.
Johnson said he knows his team needs to keep its penalty minutes to a minimum.
“Part of being disciplined is trying to keep your penalties down,” Johnson said. “I like to keep them under three, maybe sometimes under four, but you start going away and getting past five and six and then you just take the risk. Something’s going to hit something and go in. That’s what happened in Sunday’s game. Generally we don’t give up a lot of penalties.”
After seemingly dominating both games against Bemidji State last weekend, Johnson said if his team can keep the pressure up, it will bring a victory to the home crowd for the first time this season.
“A lot of good things are going on,” Johnson said. “In some of the games we haven’t been rewarded for our effort, but if we continue to work the way we have in our first eight games, we will be OK. We’re getting better and in the big picture that’s good.”