MADISON — The Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team opened up the postseason with a definitive win over the Minnesota State Mavericks Friday night.
The Badgers took a little bit to find their rhythm thanks in part to the six penalties called in the first period, but seemed to find another level in the final two frames to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three, opening-round of the WCHA playoffs.
“What I’ve seen the last couple days of practice, I thought it was going to be a pretty good night,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “Then you have to drop the puck and play and adjust to what’s going on in the game. For the most part, we held the puck a lot and created some great chances.”
The teams return to the ice at 4 p.m. on Saturday for the second game of the series. If Wisconsin wins, it will advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff tournament next weekend in Minneapolis.
Senior captain Sydney McKibbon scored twice in less than four minutes to start the second period and put the Badgers on the board.
The first was a power play just 36 seconds into the frame. A 4-on-3 had just expired and Annie Pankowski slid her the puck at the far post that she buried five-hole to give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead.
Just 3:34 later, Wisconsin scored its sixth shorthanded goal of the season. Sarah Nurse carried the puck up the far side and passed it back to McKibbon, who held it for a second before burying the shot on the blocker side to give Wisconsin the 2-0 lead.
That seemed to be enough to put the Badgers at ease. Pankowski scored on a snipe that pinged off the far post and deflected into the net, and with less than nine minutes gone in the second period, the rout was on for Wisconsin. She was moving across the ice between the circles and picked it back across her body, placing it perfectly.
Freshman Sam Cogan upped the lead to 4-0 with a slap-shot that no one seemed to see coming and the Badgers headed into the locker room after the second period out-shooting the Mavericks 36-9.
The Badgers jumped on the Mavericks to start the third period much like they started the second. As a penalty left over from the second period was winding down, Pankowski had the puck down low behind the net and fed it to Nurse out front, who buried it and made it 5-0 Wisconsin.
Freshman Abby Roque got in on the scoring when the puck she slid across the ice as a pass deflected off a Mankato skate and into the net.
Cogan scored Wisconsin’s second shorthanded goal of the game after the Badgers killed a 5-on-3. Emily Clark carried the puck into the zone and circled it back until Cogan caught up.
A bright spot for the Mavericks was freshman goalie Chloe Crosby in just her third career start. She’s the reigning WCHA Rookie of the Year who made 41 saves last weekend in her first game and added 38 Friday.
Senior Ann-Renée Desbiens made 15 saves to earn her NCAA-leading 14th shutout and 24th win of the year. She also leads the NCAA in goals-against average with a 0.72 mark and a save percentage of .962.