The Wisconsin Badgers Women’s Hockey (10-0-0, 6-0-1 Big Ten) swept the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1-1, 6-1-1 Big Ten) at home this past weekend.
The anticipation of the two top teams in the nation going head to head made it feel inevitable that there would be good action all weekend long. With both games going down to the wire, the series lived up to expectations.
The action started early in game one with the Buckeyes getting on the board first. With the puck in the offensive zone, Jenna Buglioni found Gabby Rosenthal wide open in front of the net.
Rosenthal was able to capitalize with a turnaround shot that found the back of the net to make it 1-0 Buckeyes. Rosenthal added to her team lead in goals, giving her six this season. Similarly, it was Buglioni’s seventh assist of the season which tied her for the team lead.
The score stayed at 1-0 until early in the second period, when Grace Bowlby put a shot on net that was deflected by an Ohio State defender and eventually skidded into the net. A little bit of luck goes a long way — in this case, it tied the game for the Badgers.
With about two minutes left in the second period, the Badgers were able to score again. Kendra Nealey took a wrist shot in front of the blue line that was deflected through the legs of Casey O’Brien and into the back of the net. O’Brien’s team-leading 12th goal of the season gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead into the third period.
The score would stay the same until the final minute of the period, as Daryl Watts was able to score an empty netter to make the score 3-1 and seal the game for Wisconsin.
Two things stood out about game one of the series. Both defenses were stellar throughout the game, and both offenses came into the series averaging at least 40 shots per game. Wisconsin shot the puck on net 35 times, while holding the Buckeyes to just 27 shots. The defensive prowess of the Badgers was the main reason they were able to take game one.
The second thing that stood out was the goalkeeping for the Badgers. Coming into the game, both teams knew they were facing some of the best goalkeepers in the nation. Kennedy Blair stopped all but one shot on 27 attempts for Wisconsin, giving her the first star of the game. She has been nothing but stellar all season long, and her great play continued throughout the series.
Game two had all of the excitement of game one and then some. The Badgers got on the board first late in the first period thanks to Nicole LaMantia. It was LaMantia’s second goal of the season, but her night wasn’t finished yet.
Only two minutes later, Rosenthal of Ohio State found herself on a breakaway. She was able to deke past the goalkeeper and tie the game. Rosenthal added to her team lead in goals yet again, giving her seven total. Buglioni added another assist making it eight on the year, leading Ohio State’s roster.
Both goalkeepers played impeccably through the rest of regulation, and the game stayed steady at 1-1 heading into overtime.
Only a minute into overtime, LaMantia found herself with the puck in front of a crowded crease. She fired a wrist shot that scorched through the zone and into the back of the net to win the game for Wisconsin. LaMantia’s two-goal game gave her the first star of the game and won her WCHA’s defender of the week.
Both goalies shined yet again in game two, each facing 25 shots. Blair out-dueled Ohio’s Andrea Braendli to give the Badgers the edge. Blair’s two goals allowed this weekend earned her WCHA’s goalkeeper of the week.
The defense was stellar yet again on both sides of the ice. Combined, both teams had 112 shots throughout the weekend. That’s 52 less shots than their expected average. The defense combined with the goalkeepers’ prowess led to low-scoring affairs in both games.
Wisconsin’s head coach Mark Johnson had high praise for his team after sweeping the Buckeyes.
“I can take away after that first period last night that we can play at a high level,” he said. “We showcased that, and that’s encouraging.”
The games certainly weren’t perfect for Wisconsin, but the team can’t start any better than 10-0. UHCSO’s team rankings reflect that, as the Badgers retain their number one spot in the nation.
Wisconsin hits the road again next weekend to take on the Minnesota State Mavericks in Mankato. The first puck drops at 3 p.m. on Friday.