The first round of playoffs in the WCHA women’s hockey league is officially over, and the Wisconsin women’s hockey team is still in the running. UW played the last matchup of its three-game series against Minnesota State-Mankato Sunday afternoon, taking home the victory and ending the Mavericks’ season.
The game was actually the fifth in a row where the two teams faced off, as they ended their regular seasons in a series against each other. Wisconsin defeated Minnesota in four of the five games, with the sole Maverick win occurring Saturday night, the second game of the playoff series.
The win was conveniently placed for the Mavericks, however, seeing as it extended their season by at least one game. And after the close first period that was played Sunday, it was hard to tell if Minnesota State was about to see a second well-placed victory, or if the Badgers would prove why they are the No. 2 ranked team.
After both teams failed to get on the scoreboard after the first period, head coach Mark Johnson said it was starting to look like one of those games where the first team to score would be the only one to score.
“It was a matter of getting pucks into the scoring area,” Johnson said. “In the [first] two games, we weren’t hitting the net as much as I would’ve liked to, but I liked our work ethic. I liked our offensive zone time. We weren’t giving up many shots at all. I don’t know if that’s good or just scary because who was going to score first had a big importance in the game today.”
With this in mind, the Wisconsin bench was more than likely relieved when junior forward Blayre Turnbull snuck the puck past Minnesota goaltender, Danielle Butters. Her initial shot hit the pipe, rebounded into the back of Butters’ leg and was redirected for a final time past the goal line.
“It wasn’t a clean goal,” Johnson said of Turnbull’s shot. “It was a bit of an ugly goal, but that’s these types of games, this type of playoff atmosphere. That’s what it’s going to take to win.”
The third period brought UW another goal, solidifying the win. After defenseman Courtney Burke shook the puck loose from the scrum that had formed in front of the net, she circled around the outside of the players and shot the puck through the middle of them, and past Butters for one last time, bringing the Mavericks’ 2013-2014 hockey season to a close.
Saturday held an unwelcome surprise for Wisconsin fans at LaBahn Arena as Wisconsin fell to Minnesota State in the second game in a best-of-three playoff matchup, leaving everyone wondering which team would end up seeing the second round of tournament play.
The roles were reversed after the Badgers dominated the Mavericks in their 4-0 win Friday night, MSU would give UW a taste of its own medicine.
The first goal came early, as Minnesota forward Melissa Klippenstein pushed a rebound off of line mate Natalie Stoltz’s outside shot into the back of the net.
“Certainly scoring the second shift of the game got them excited,” head coach Mark Johnson said, reflecting on the second-shift goal.
But it seemed to rev up UW as well, which got 17 shots off throughout the rest of the first period, as opposed to Minnesota’s 5, and spent the majority of the 20 minutes in their offensive zone. But Butters denied each attempt and sent the Badgers back to their locker room down 1-0.
The two teams looked more evenly matched as they stepped back out for the second period. But five minutes in, Minnesota found the back of the Wisconsin net once again.
Though the Badgers were down 2-0 with over half the game left to go, they still put up a fight, racking up 14 shots throughout the rest of the second period and outshooting Minnesota again by 4.
The third period followed close suit of the other two, with the Mavericks scoring not long after the puck was dropped. On a Wisconsin power play, Minnesota forward Kelsie Scott jumped on a loose puck, taking it down the length of the ice and putting it past senior goaltender Alex Rigsby, for what would be the final goal of the night.
Wisconsin players no doubt exited LaBahn Arena frustrated at the end of the night, having just lost to the Mavericks for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, even after outshooting them 51-22.
“I thought we played overall a pretty good game, and we didn’t give them many opportunities, but we couldn’t capitalize on ours,” Johnson said.
While the Mavericks may have posed a greater challenge it is no surprise to the Badgers who told time and time again how hard it is to send a team home.
“Like coach says, the toughest thing is to eliminate a team. We just ended their season tonight and that’s never easy,” Rigsby said.