Emotions ran high in LaBahn Arena this weekend, with the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team celebrating senior weekend Sunday. Two hours later, the team was also celebrating a WCHA conference regular season title.
The Badgers (30-1-1, 24-1-1 WCHA) ended the weekend having earned two sweeps of Minnesota State (3-25-4, 0-23-3 WCHA), bringing Wisconsin to its sixteenth shutout of the year.
Both games were in front of sold out crowds, who wished the class of 2016 farewell. The eight seniors started off Sunday afternoon with an emotional fanfare, with their loved ones and fans congratulating them on their seasons with Wisconsin.
The senior class certainly was present during both games, with captain and senior defender Courtney Burke scoring the first goal of the night Sunday, and senior forward Erika Sowchuk scoring a goal for UW both Saturday and Sunday.
While it might have been a bittersweet weekend for the senior class, Sowchuk said head coach Mark Johnson still wanted them to focus on the game at hand.
“[Johnson] just told us to stick to our game and do the little things right,” said Sowchuk. “Win our 50-50 battles, keep pushing the puck to the net, and I think we executed that well.”
This weekend also gave fans an introduction to some new lineups that they haven’t seen before.
Johnson changed three of his four lines, hoping to spice some things up with the teams playing abilities.
“It’s a new look,” Johnson said. “Instead of waking up and getting Groundhog’s day, you change it and make it a different flavor to see if something might happen.”
And the “new flavor” Johnson sought was there. With a 4-0 score Saturday and a 8-1 score Sunday, all lines were at the top of their game. The Badgers had not seen that high of a shutout score since the beginning of the season.
Sophomore forward Sydney McKibbon also helped the cardinal and white this weekend in a big way, netting three of Wisconsin’s 10 goals on the weekend, with two Saturday and one Sunday.
Defensively, Wisconsin made sure to keep Mankato at bay, and as usual they relied heavily on junior goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens. Desbiens held down the Wisconsin fort, only allowing one goal during both nights of game play, which her team commended her on.
“We have an amazing goalie back there that always has our back,” said Sowchuk.” I think that’s huge and it’s a key part to our success.”
Sunday saw a momentum push like none other, with three Wisconsin goals netted within a minute and a half of each other. Sophomore forward Annie Pankowski scored the first goal of the period, and was quickly followed by sophomore forward Emily Clark and junior forward Sarah Nurse.
The details helped the Badgers clinch their sweep this weekend, and certainly gave the Badger class of 2016 something to look back fondly on.