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Wisconsin women’s hockey escapes Bemidji with win, tie

Badgers challenged on road by unranked Beavers

In a battle of the Bucky’s (Bemidji State’s mascot is named “Bucky Beaver”), the top-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team avoided disaster in a difficult road test at Bemidji State, taking five out of six possible points with an overtime win on Friday and a shootout win on Saturday.

In game one, the Badgers cruised to a 3–0 lead thanks to a pair of goals by Claudia Kepler (16) and a goal by Caitlin Schneider (four). Here is Kepler’s second goal:

Wisconsin had to be feeling quite good. Campbell’s scoreless streak was extending every minute, and the Badgers continued to cruise through 2018. But then the wheels fell off with five minutes left in the second period. Abby Halluska fired off Bemidji State’s first goal of the series, and then Emily Bergland and Paige Beebe scored a pair of goals early in the third period. It’s been a while since the Badgers were tested like this, and they were fortunate to hold the 3–3 score into overtime.

In overtime, Mikaela Gardner (six) launched the game-winner, and a sigh of relief thundered across the Badger bench.

In game two of the series, Bemidji State proved that the first game was no fluke. The Badgers tried to set the tone early, as Sophia Shaver (10) scored a mere 11 seconds into the game. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Bergland matched this goal halfway through the first period for Bemidji, leaving a 1–1 tie after one period.

The second period was similar to the first, as Schnieder (four) gave the Badgers a 2–1 lead only 32 seconds into the second period. This score held for 18.5 minutes until Clair DeGeorge tied things back up for Bemidji, giving a 2–2 tie after two periods.

The third period gave Bemidji great hope that it would pull off the upset against the top-ranked Badgers. Beebe scored a goal five minutes into the third period, and the Badgers trailed for the first time in 2018. However, Wisconsin persisted by continuing to add offensive pressure, and Sam Cogan (seven) tied things up halfway through the third period.

This 3–3 score held through the end of regulation and overtime, giving Bemidji and Wisconsin both one point in the standings for the tie. A shootout followed to determine who would win the final point of the game. Fortunately, the Badgers’ skill depth really shined, as freshman Brett Pettet won the shootout for Bucky in the fifth round.

Notes:

  • Two “I told you so’s:” First, Wisconsin is very beatable. The Badgers showed that when they aren’t sharp, even second-tier teams can put three goals on them. If they had struggled offensively this weekend, which they have at times this season, they would have been swept without much problem. Second, Bemidji State is really good and much better than its 12–13–3 record would indicate. Expect the Beavers to make a run in the WCHA tournament to fight for an automatic bid.
  • Wisconsin is still the best team in the country, but this series makes me question its ability to take home tournament trophies come March.
  • Kepler’s leadership continues to pay dividends, and she’s continuing to contribute at a high level. Furthermore, she’s exploded as a goal scorer as of late. She has a stellar six goals in her last five games. Kepler leads the WCHA in conference goals (11) and goals per game (0.69). She is tied for the conference lead in overall goals (16) and goals per game (0.62).
  • Ohio State swept Minnesota, which means OSU chiseled away one point from Wisconsin’s conference lead, which currently stands at 10 points (equivalent to three wins and one tie). Wisconsin will travel to Columbus to face the Buckeyes in two weeks. Wisconsin swept OSU at home in November, including a 7–0, smack-down win.