Going into this weekend’s series against the University of Minnesota Duluth (2-4 WCHA), the University of Wisconsin (8-0-0, 4-0-1 Big Ten) was expected to face a much higher level of competition than the previous teams they played.
But after Friday’s victory over the Bulldogs, 3–0, it looked like the Badgers hadn’t skipped a beat.
Wisconsin took the lead in the first period, thanks to a power-play goal from Makenna Webster — the Badgers never looked back after this. Maddi Wheeler scored her fourth goal of the season in the second period before Webster added her second power-play goal of the game with 25 seconds remaining.
The third period was focused on maintaining the shutout. Kennedy Blair saved eight of eight shots against her, and the Badgers were able to kill Duluth’s third period power-play — an impressive feat given the Bulldogs’ efficient five-on-four play this season. Duluth was shut out for the first time all season, while Wisconsin was able to collect their fifth shutout in only seven games.
The next game saw Wisconsin’s first closely contested battle.
Five minutes into the first period, Duluth’s Anna Klein scored her third goal of the season, and just 15 minutes later, she scored her fourth. At the end of the first period, the Bulldogs were up 2–0.
Prior to this, Wisconsin had only given up two goals for the season. Wisconsin quickly rallied back with their own two-score effort from Sarah Wozniewicz, her second being unassisted after a takeaway in the Bulldog’s zone.
The third period was a scoring frenzy, beginning with the Badger’s Nicole LaMantia scoring her first goal of the season. Less than two minutes later, the 2020 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Elizabeth Giguere, tied it back up for Duluth.
Wisconsin frustratingly couldn’t find the net for the next seven minutes, despite being in their opponent’s zone for most of the period, outshooting them 16-10. The Badgers were able to finally break through when Grace Bowlby gathered the rebound off a Sophie Shirley shot and made the pass to Wheeler, who buried it for the lead.
That seemed like it would be the end of it — the Badgers had less than 10 minutes to maintain a lead, and there’s very little reason to doubt this Wisconsin team on their 13-game win streak.
Alas, it’s hard to keep a great offensive team down, as a too-many-players penalty set up a Giguere power-play goal with just 3:30 left on the clock. The period ended with no more shots on goal, taking Wisconsin to their first overtime since their national championship win last season.
Two of Wisconsin’s biggest stars, Daryl Watts and Casey O’Brien, had both been relatively quiet this whole series, with only two assists between them but it seemed like they really didn’t like the idea of overtime, though.
Only 15 seconds in, Watts stole the puck in Wisconsin’s zone and rushed to the other side of the rink. Finding herself on a two-on-one fastbreak with O’Brien, Watts made the pass over to her teammate, allowing O’Brien to slap the one-timer in for her NCAA-leading 11th goal of the season.
Wisconsin walked away with a series sweep against the first ranked team they have played all season, extending their multi-season win streak to 14 games. The Badgers outscored the Bulldogs 8–4 for the series but showed they weren’t unstoppable in their latest win.
Blair, after allowing four goals, ended a superhuman-like run of allowing only one goal of the first 100 shots taken against her.
Wisconsin will take on the undefeated No. 2 Ohio State next series, in what will surely be the most important set of games so far in all of women’s hockey.