Friday night marked the end of the season for the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team, as they lost a double-overtime contest to the Colgate Raiders in the NCAA semifinals.
For those that have followed the team all year long, it seemed as though the Badgers quickly adopted an air of invincibility early in the year, only to be tarnished this past weekend to the surprise of many.
As the first period commenced at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, both teams got off to a slow start. No pucks found a home in the back of the net for the first 16 minutes of the period. Colgate then opened up scoring with a goal by center Bre Wilson-Bennet at 16:43. After the first strike, the opening frame would rage on to its conclusion without another tick on either goal-tender’s score-sheet.
Come the middle frame, the Badgers would fire back. Forward Baylee Wellhausen notched a goal past Colgate goalie Julia Vandyk 6:22 into the period. Abby Roque assisted Wellhausen for her 11th goal of the season.
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With the score knotted at one apiece, and the second period winding down, the Badgers found themselves on the wrong end of a penalty and forced to attempt to stave off a vicious Raider power-play attack. It would be Wilson-Bennet once again, scoring her second goal of the night with 30 seconds left in the period with the one skater advantage on the ice.
The third period would become an all-out offensive battle.
Once again, the Badgers fought back to even the score, this time at 2-2. On a power-play of their own, redshirt senior captain Claudia Kepler scored her 22nd goal of the year, which as of now places her in the top fifteen in goal-scoring in the NCAA.
Things remained quiet for much of the third period. That is until Colgate struck once again. Another power-play goal for the Raiders, Jessie Eldridge put home the effort past Badger goalie Kristen Cambell. Wilson-Bennet assisted Eldridge on the play.
So it became time for the Badgers to look dead ahead at the end of their season. Down a score with three minutes and change left, things began to look futile, and the usually confident UW team was forced to begin pressing. At the 16:36 mark, Mekenzie Steffen nailed the equalizer. The season was safe, for now. It was onto overtime.
A full 20-minute overtime period ticked away, but neither team managed the game-winner. The intensity level was through the roof, with both teams playing their best hockey, leaving it all out there on the ice.
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Since one overtime was not enough to separate the two Frozen Four semifinalist programs, it would have to be decided in a second consecutive, grueling sudden death period. Colgate’s Wilson-Bennet collected her third goal of the night, a hat trick, for the game-winner and a Raider’s ticket to the NCAA Finals.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association Goaltender of the Year Kristen Campbell ended her sophomore season with a goals-against average of 1.19, which is good enough for third in the NCAA. She also sported a .939 save percentage which places her fourth among NCAA net-minders. In only her second season, Campbell has distinguished herself as one of the best athletes in the country, and it seems like the next couple seasons the Badgers will have the luxury of a brick wall in net.
In her final season lacing up for the Cardinal and White, Kepler led the team with 22 goals and a scorching .210 shot percentage.
Sophomore Roque led the Badgers in points, with 41.
This season may be considered a failure, but only in the context of the outlandish expectations and success of the team over the last few years. The Badgers have been to four straight Frozen Fours, produced multiple Olympians and were ranked No. 1 for most of the season. Next year the Badgers will once again be gunning for the NCAA Championship.