The playoffs came and went in Madison over the weekend, as the No. 4 University of Wisconsin Badgers (25-6-4, 18-6-3 WCHA) swept the unranked Bemidji State University Beavers (11-20-3, 8-18-2) at home in round one.
Though the outcome went pretty much as expected for Mark Johnson’s crew, the Badger faithful sweated out game one of the series. Despite Wisconsin outshooting BSU 13-5 in the first period, the game got off to a slow start. Eventually, Badgers fans were stunned with a BSU goal a little under two minutes to go in the first. BSU’s top line, led by Paige Beebe and Graysen Meyers, got their team on the board. Meyers was able to sneak one past Kennedy Blair to put the Beavers up 1-0 at the end of the first.
The score would hold for a little more than half of the second period, until Chayla Edwards threw a pass up the ice from her own defensive end to the opposite blue line where the puck found Sophie Shirley. After moving onside and creating a three-on-two, Shirley found Maddi Wheeler alone in front of the net to tie the game. Badgers fans could finally exhale as their team was able to find the back of the net.
The game remained tied until the beginning of the third. After getting the puck in the offensive zone, Brette Pettet showed off her dangles as she got past two defenders and fired a bullet on net. BSU’s goaltender, Kerigan Dowhy, looked like she got a piece of the puck, but it was not enough as it snuck by her and into the net. Pettet’s game-winner came only a little under two minutes into the period. The game ended at 2-1, giving the Badgers a 1-0 series lead.
Though both games ended with the Badgers winning, the games couldn’t have looked more different from each other. If game one got off to a slow start, then game two got off to a start that resembles lightspeed.
A little over a minute into the match, Casey O’Brien made her presence felt in the series. The top-five regular season goal-getter got Wisconsin up early in the game, thanks to a rebound opportunity off a shot from Nicole LaMantia.
Ten minutes later, LaMantia scored as she fired a wrist shot off the crossbar and in the net. The goal was a product of the puck movement in the offensive zone and a great pass from O’Brien.
The last goal of the first period came from THE Darryl Watts. Watts received the puck in the neutral zone and simply just used her speed to get past every defender who tried to keep up. She stick handled from her backhand to forehand near the left side of the net and fired a tight angled shot for a goal. At the end of the first, Wisconsin was already in the driver’s seat at 3-0.
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Even though they were up early, the Badgers continued to put the pressure on in the second. The Badgers outshot the Beavers 15-5 in the second, but they couldn’t get a goal on the scoreboard until 17 minutes into the period. Casey O’Brien got her second of the game thanks to a beautiful pass from Chayla Edwards. Edwards faked a wrist shot and instead flung the puck across the middle of the ice right onto the stick of O’Brien. O’Brien had a wide open net to increase the lead to four.
A mere two minutes later, Makenna Webster netted her first goal of the series. Wisconsin had a two-on-one breakaway in which O’Brien’s pass got rid of the defender and found Webster all alone in front of the net. Webster’s goal at the end of the second would be the last of the game, and the Badgers took game two by a score of 5-0.
Maddi Wheeler, Casey O’Brien and Kenney Blair were the stars of the series for Wisconsin. This was Wheeler’s first weekend back coming off of an injury, in which she scored two goals and an assist. O’Brien had two goals and two assists in game two for all of her points, while Blair made 29 saves on 30 shots over the entire weekend.
The Badgers look to continue the momentum heading into a pivotal one-game playoff against Ohio State in Minneapolis next weekend.