MADISON -- The buzz word around the Badger locker room was confidence after routing Ohio State 7-0 and 8-0 this weekend. Wisconsin has 28 goals in their first four games. Every player on the roster has tallied at least one point. It's the first time in program history that they have scored five or more goals in each of the first four games.
A question every off-season is how to replace the goals scored by graduated seniors. With seven different goal scorers and 11 players notching points on Sunday afternoon, it appears that question has already been answered in Madison. And the players are riding the high of rolling through their opening two weekends.
"Everyone is contributing – all four lines. The more that we can roll all four lines and everyone’s contributing and producing; it gives the whole team confidence and it’s hard to play against," said sophomore Emily Clark, who had a seven point weekend, tallying four goals and three assists.
It's a promising start to the season for coach Mark Johnson.
"We’ve got a good group. Their chemistry is good, their work habits are good, so one day at a time, one game at a time and try to get better for the next one, he said. "Confidence is such a big factor in this game. If players can play with confidence, they’ll generally play better. If you have scoring depth, it just becomes more challenging for teams to play against you."
Wisconsin had their way with OSU this weekend, absolutely dominating in all categories. UW hung 15 goals and tallied 102 shots on goal to Ohio State's 29. In the Badgers' last eight games verse the Buckeyes, they've out-scored them 37-5.
The Badgers dominated puck possession and peppered the Ohio State net, forcing them to pull starting goalie Alex Lamere after four goals, giving redshirt freshman Selena Hunter the chance midway through the second period.
It was a surprising showing from Ohio State, who upset the Badgers in the second-to-last series last season and looked to be a team on the upswing. It was a disappointing conference opener for new Ohio State coach Jenny Potter.
The top line of sophomores Annie Pankowski, Clark and Baylee Wellhausen have led the charge, but eleven different Badgers tallied points on Sunday. Freshman Mikaela Gardner's second period goal signified quite a feat for the team -- every player on the Badgers' roster has at least one point through the first four games.
Spreading the scoring across all the lines makes it more difficult for teams to match up against the Badgers.
"Everyone is contributing – all four lines. The more that we can roll all four lines and everyone’s contributing and producing; it gives the whole team confidence and it’s hard to play against," said Clark.
Pankowski has taken increased ice time and used it to her advantage. She's tallied seven goals and four assists in 11 games for a 2.75 points per game average -- second best in the nation. She now has 19 goals in 19 games dating back to last season. She scored seven goals in the first 10 periods of the season.
Clark led the team with two goals. She opened the scoring just 30 seconds into the game on a pretty little wrister as she moved across the goal mouth, softly placing the puck in the far corner. She scored the seventh when she passed the puck around a defender to herself and buried the ensuing shot.
Line mate Pankowski added the second goal while displaying some gorgeous stick work. She had the puck across the goal mouth and got the goalie to commit before dragging the puck past her and burying it at the far post.
It was junior Ann-Renée Desbiens' 19th career shutout -- placing her third in program history for that stat. The lack of action in the defensive zone bodes well for the season, but can leave Desbiens a little removed from the game.
"I try to play the puck as much as I can so I stay involved in the game. It’s a way I've found can help me keep focusing. Sometimes it’s hard -- I can go 12, 15 minutes without receiving a shot so that helps make sure I still see the game coming at me and I’m ready in it," said Desbiens. "It’s not something we can manage, so I just have to just go to every single game and focus on every single shot. Sometimes they take longer than others to come, but I know as the season goes on, teams improve. It's going to get harder, so we need to make sure right now that we focus on the little things so that we can be ready for bigger games."