The Wisconsin women’s hockey team continued its domination of Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend, pulling off a series sweep against the WCHA opponent at LaBahn Arena.
Wisconsin (7-3-2, 2-3-2 WCHA) improved to 56-1-3 in its all-time series with Minnesota State (4-6-2, 2-4-2) with a pair of shutout victories.
On Friday, UW came out on top 2-0 over MSU and backed up Friday’s game with a dominating 5-0 win Saturday.
Head coach Mark Johnson could not be much happier with the way his team played in the series.
“The important part is that they are league games,” Johnson said. “What I am most pleased at is over the six periods, we played pretty well in all of them. It’s a good team effort. We’ve made some good strides.”
The Badgers played well in almost all aspects of the game, scoring seven goals and recording two shutouts against the Mavericks.
Wisconsin’s penalty kill continued to play well, stopping all four chances Minnesota State had with the single man advantage.
Junior goaltender Alex Rigsby was an integral part of the defense’s success, recording 36 saves in the two games.
With the two shutouts over the Mavericks, Rigsby now boasts three shutouts in a row.
The reigning WCHA Defensive Player of the Week attributed her success against MSU to her ability to stay focused.
“It feels good to not let any goals in,” Rigsby said. “I’ve had good weeks of practice and preparation. I’m coming in focused for the games and ready to go.”
Rigsby and the defense seem to be on a roll, allowing only five goals in their last five games after allowing nine goals in their first five games.
The only thing UW struggled with during the MSU series was converting on power play opportunities. Wisconsin had a total of 18 minutes of power play and was unable to come out with a single goal during that time.
Wisconsin needed time Saturday to get going offensively but finally got on the board when senior forward Alev Kelter scored on an assist from freshman forward Erika Sowchuk with just over five minutes remaining in the first period.
After the first goal, the Badgers went on to score two goals in both the second and third periods.
Sophomore defenseman Katarina Zgraja scored early in the second period on an unassisted shot.
Then it was the senior captain Brianna Decker doing what she does best, scoring a goal late in the second period and again 29 seconds into the third period to bring her season total to 12 goals.
Sophomore forward Blayre Turnbull finished the scoring for the Badgers Saturday, getting her first goal of the season with 13:05 left in game.
Johnson said it is the team’s ability to move quickly and spread out the puck which has helped Wisconsin increase its scoring.
“Our ability to move our feet and move the puck, if we are doing that like we did in yesterday’s game, we can create a lot of things,” Johnson said. “Most of the game we were doing that. Our passing is getting better and obviously if you pass the puck well, it makes it difficult to cover people.”
UW ended up outshooting MSU 40-22 Saturday and committed only two penalties.
Friday’s game featured very aggressive play from both teams, which translated into a total of 11 penalties in the game.
Wisconsin was able to take the lead in the first period when Sowchuk scored her second goal of the season on an assist from junior forward Madison Packer. Sowchuk was more than gracious to be the one to hand the Badgers an early lead.
“[Scoring the first goal] felt great,” Sowchuk said. “I was just happy to help my team out and be able to put a point on the scoreboard for us. I just happened to be at the right spot at the right time.”
After both teams were unable to score in the second period, Kelter gave UW the 2-0 lead in the third period on an unassisted goal with 13:47 left in the game.
Wisconsin held off Minnesota State’s late game efforts to score when the Mavericks pulled their goaltender with less than a minute to go, giving the Badgers a 2-0 win.
The pair of victories over MSU puts UW on a four-game winning streak and moves Wisconsin up to third in the conference standings.
Johnson said the last four games have given his team confidence and is looking forward to see what that confidence will do for this team going forward into a bye week.
“You look at the 12 games and yeah, you would like to have one or two of them back. But we are going in the right direction,” Johnson said. “We’ve had four good games here at home and now we get a chance to take two weeks to prepare and try to make ourselves even better.”
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