MADISON — It’s another Frozen Four berth for Bucky.
The Wisconsin women’s hockey team (31–4–2) brought its best hockey of the season to defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers (24–11–3) 4–0, much to the delight of an energetic sellout crowd. The LaBahn Arena faithful were treated to an excellent season, as the Badgers won all 17 games played there this year.
Wisconsin dominated from start to finish, out-shooting Minnesota 39–12. The Gophers managed only one shot in the entire third period.
“The first thing is to thank the fans for coming out, and supporting the program throughout the whole year, but especially today,” head coach Mark Johnson said.
“I thought we had a packed, full house. You could feel the energy as we came out on the bench, and I thought the players rose to the occasion playing in front of a crowd. .
It’s a great time for Wisconsin to play its best hockey. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Badgers entered a game with a clear injury list, and Minnesota didn’t stand a chance. Heading into the Frozen Four, teams need to bring their best hockey.
“[Apart from the first five minutes], I think we had our best game of the year,” Johnson said.”
Sophomore forward Abby Roque and sophomore goaltender Kristen Campbell led the way for Wisconsin. Roque put the game away with two second-period goals within 16 seconds of each other, puting the game way out of reach for Minnesota.
“I think the first play was a really nice play,” Roque said of her goals.
“I was trying to get it out of my skate but knew I’d have to move it to my backhand. The goalie was in my way, but I got lucky enough to get past the defense. Then, right off the bat, we had a nice turnover, it was a good forecheck, it was two-on-one and I figured that I’d shoot it in the same spot. I was lucky enough to have it go in. That really got us going, I think, that momentum really helped us win the game.”
Campbell earned her NCAA-best 12th shutout, and her performance included this gem of a save:
The other NCAA quarterfinal games were all quite exciting. Ohio State upset (and shut out) the high-powered offense of Boston College. Colgate went to the wire against Northeastern, and top-seeded defending national champion Clarkson needed overtime to defeat eighth-seeded Mercyhurst.
The Frozen Four begins Friday in Minneapolis. I encourage you to make the trip if you have the means; the next handful of Frozen Fours are all much tougher trips to afford. While Wisconsin should be a national title contender for the next three years, this year is the best chance to see it happen in person.
Wisconsin matches up with Cinderella story of the year Colgate on Friday at 7 p.m. CT. Should the Badgers advance past Colgate, they would face a familiar foe in the national title game. It would either be a rematch of last year’s title game against Clarkson or a fifth round against conference foe Ohio State.
Wisconsin’s last five trips to the Frozen Four have ended in disappointment. With most other UW sports on the sidelines, all eyes are on the women’s hockey team.
It seems ready.
Can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.