It was a warm homecoming for the Wisconsin Badgers as they opened the season at LaBahn Arena in decisive fashion with a 7-0 win over Ohio State on Saturday.
Eleven different Badgers had points, but it was sophomores Annie Pankowski and Emily Clark who led the charge and had the highlight of the game.
Pankowski got the breakaway and headed towards the left goalpost. She had Clark trailing and laid it back to her across the net. Clark had a near clear view of the goal and the entire OSU defense bit on her fake shot. Instead, she softly fed it to Pankowski, who had a wide-open back door shot to make it 3-0. It was Pankowski's third short-handed goal and fifth goal overall in three games.
With strong upperclass defenders last season, Pankowski didn't see a lot of time on the penalty kill unit as a freshman. Her expanded role this year combined with what coach Mark Johnson called her good hockey sense is what's allowed Pankowski to jump some passes and make some steals.
It was a affirmation game for the Badgers, who lost their last outing against the Buckeyes in the second to last weekend of the regular season. Additionally, though the sophomores had shown they could score in bunches in 2014-2015, the Badgers graduated more than one-third of their points and having the underclassmen score 12 of their 20 goals thus far provides some reassurance to begin the season.
The dominant performance is a good base for the Badgers to build off of. Despite taking a few too many penalties, there isn't much for Johnson to change before tomorrow's rematch.
"(We tried) to get out and play at a pace and try to play fast and try to do something quickly. The penalty kill did a good job," said Johnson. "The whole game was pretty good. We played at a good pace from start to finish and had the puck a lot and created a lot of opportunities. It’s only three games into the season - it’s a building process."
The game started without either team controlling the puck for long as they felt each other out. Then the Badgers scored two goals in 22 seconds and OSU never felt like they had a chance to get back in the game.
Despite the flurry of first period goals, the Badgers only led shots on goal 8-4. Credit Buckeye goalie Stacy Danczak with keeping the game close in the second period, as Wisconsin peppered her with 21 shots while giving her little rest. OSU managed just six shots, two on goal, in the second period. In the end, Wisconsin out-shot Ohio State 41-10.
Freshman Sam Cogan opened the scoring, netting her second of the young season. Junior Sarah Nurse had the puck behind OSU's net and fed it out front with a pretty no-look, between the legs pass. Junior Sydney McKibbon picked it up and her shot deflected around the net. Cogan buried the rebound the fell at her feet.
The second goal started in much the same fashion, though it was Clark that began and ended the play. She played it from behind the net to senior captain Courtney Burke. Her shot deflected out to sophomore Baylee Wellhausen, who pushed it back on net. The rebound came to Clark on the far side and she made it 2-0.
Clark pushed it to 4-0 in the second period when she and Pankowski combined again. The two were line mates last season and the chemistry they've found is playing out in beautiful ways on the ice. Pankowski has the puck on the far boards and fed Clark in front of the net with a perfect pass, which Clark directed into the back of the net.
The assist gives Pankowski 50 career points in just 42 games played - the eighth fastest in program history.
McKibbon made it 5-0 with a power play goal early in the third period. Just six seconds into the PP, the Buckeyes tapped the puck to Danczak, who couldn't cover it up. It as left sitting in the crease and McKibbon had an easy tap-in goal.
Senior Rachel Jones added a power play goal when we was able to push home a rebound on a loose puck in front of the net to make it 6-0.
Pankowski closed out the scoring with a pretty little wrister moving across the goal mouth to make it 7-0.
The Badgers and Buckeyes will close the series Sunday at 2 pm in a nationally televised game on Big Ten Network