The Wisconsin women’s hockey team played spiritedly on Valentine’s Day, closing out their regular season home schedule with an 8-1 triumph on senior day.
Women’s hockey: Badgers secure conference title with sweep of Minnesota StateEmotions ran high in LaBahn Arena this weekend, with the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team celebrating senior weekend Sunday. Read…
Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson believes emotion was the defining characteristic of the team during their season-long effort, which resulted in their fifth WCHA regular season title.
Eight seniors held spots on Wisconsin’s roster, the most the team had since 2005-06, giving the Badgers motivation and evoking the emotion needed to win.
“Senior Day is always an emotional day and having such a big senior class [leads to] distractions which coaches don’t like,” Johnson said. “When they drop the puck, as a coach you hope they’re ready to play.”
Johnson’s hope came true. He witnessed his team deliver an incredible performance against Minnesota State.
“I was happy with the way we came out and handled those emotions. More importantly I was happy how we came out in the third period and embraced the last 20 minutes of our regular season at home,” Johnson said. “We played as well as we have all season.”
Wisconsin finished the game with eight goals and a club-record 31 shots on goal to propel the team to win 30 out of 32 games so far this season. Historically, that number of victories has marked the beginning of even greater achievements to come in the postseason.
The Badgers are five for five in reaching the national championship game when accumulating 30 or more regular season wins. Four of those five championship appearances resulted in Wisconsin becoming the national champions.
In the closing minutes of the team’s weekend match, Johnson recognized the significance of what the win would mean for his players.
“[I told them,] ‘Go on the ice and enjoy playing here in front of the crowd and knowing that in five or six minutes you are going to be WCHA champs,’” Johnson said.
The regular season title was a major personal achievement for Johnson, who called it the toughest trophy to win in women’s hockey.
“It takes so long to get there and so many things have to go right and you have to be consistent, you have to make improvements and you have to make adjustments, and this group has been able to do that,” Johnson said. “I got home last night about 9:30 on my couch, very relaxed and a smile on my face. It was a good day.”
But facing No. 3 Minnesota in a two-game series this weekend, Johnson does not intend to let his team dwell on the past weekend’s accomplishment. Instead, he’ll let his team’s emotion and drive lead them to victory.