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Wisconsin hockey: welcome to Hat Trick U

A big weekend on the ice for both men’s and women’s hockey got off to a goal-filled start for the Badgers.

@BadgerWHockey; UW Communications

The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team (22-2-1 overall, 12-2-1-0 WCHA) faced off against the No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-3-3 overall, 12-3-2-1 WCHA) at LaBahn Arena in Madison on Friday night in the biggest series of the season.

A few states to the east in South Bend, Ind., the men’s hockey team had a key series starting themselves. Wisconsin needs to get a winning streak going if the want to have a chance of sniffing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and a battle with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish was just the place to get started.

The women barnstormed out of the gate and took a 1-0 lead on the Gophers after just three minutes of play with Abby Roque’s wraparound goal getting the LaBahn Arena crowd juiced up early.

The Gophers would tie it up halfway through the second period, but a mere two minutes later junior Caitlin Schneider scored top-shelf on a breakaway to give the Badgers the lead back. Then Roque decided that enough was enough and she scored two goals in the final two and a half minutes of the period to give the Badgers a 4-1 lead and complete her hat trick.

Now, I’m sure there is a reason they play three periods in a hockey game and I’m also sure that the Badgers know there are three periods in a hockey game but, uh, it sure didn’t seem like it on Friday night. The Gophers scored three goals in the final period, and out-shot the Badgers 13-6, to tie the game at 4-4 and send it into overtime.

The Gophers, however, didn’t know that overtime was also Sophie Shirley time and 52 seconds into the extra period Shirley, off a pass from Daryl Watts, sent the Gophers to the locker room and kept the Badgers as the No. 1 team in the country for another night. Shirley has now scored in three straight game and has a team-leading 22 tallies on the year.

The 5-4 OT victory was huge for the Badgers as a team but also huge for Roque as a player. This was her second career hat trick and 50th career goal. She is only the second Badger to have a hat trick against Minnesota as Sarah Nurse (2013-17) tallied one Dec. 4, 2016 in a dominant 8-2 win.

“I was here when Sarah Nurse did it (recorded a hat trick against Minnesota) before me, and she’s one of my good friends, somebody I look up to, and I’m really glad that she’s the one who did it before me. I think that’s incredible that we are the two who have done it. It’s a great accomplishment, they’re a great team and they’re hard to score on,” Roque said after the game.

Roque moved into 10th in program history for most points with 157, and is tied for second on the team in goals this season with 20 and is alone in second on the team in assists with 25. Her 45 total points are tied for second on the team as well.

While this was a great win for the Badgers, they know that Saturday afternoon will be no picnic against a team like Minnesota. “They’re going to play a full 60 minutes, they’re a top two mean in the country so you got to bring everything all the time. There’s no laying back because the other team will take advantage of you,” Schneider noted.

“After tonight, there are nine games to play. What do we want to do? We don’t want to have any regrets after these nine games. You guys are in shape. You know how to play. So, let’s go out and have some fun and really go after it,” head coach Mark Johnson said.

The men’s hockey team kind of had an opposite game that the women had. The Badgers went down to the Fighting Irish 2-0 early and thoughts of “here we go again” probably crept into everyone’s minds. Not Cole Caufield’s however.

With just over a minute to go in the first period Caufield notched his first goal of the game to give the Badgers life heading into the locker room. Then, a mere 79 seconds into the second period, Caufield scored again to tie the game at 2-2.

Notre Dame took the lead again at 3-2 but Ty Pelton-Bryce and Caufield (on the power play), to complete his hat trick, scored to give the Badgers the 4-3 advantage before the second intermission. Caufield’s hat trick was the first for a Badger freshman since Robbie “Hollywood” Earl on Feb. 6, 2004, at the Kohl Center against North Dakota.

“There are plenty of games where it has looked like he [Caufield] was going to have the same kind of game. Tonight he was dead on in his shots and they went in for him. He finds way to beat guys to the net. Obviously, the shot is tremendous, but just getting in the position to be able to get to a scoring area like that,” head coach Tony Granato said after the game about his freshman superstar.

In the third period, Max Zimmer lit the lamp for the first time this season, chased Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris and scored the Badgers fifth goal (and eventual game-winner) of the game on the man advantage. A scrambling Irish team made it a one-goal game and then pulled their goalie which allowed captain Wyatt Kalynuk to get an empty netter and finish things off.

Kalynuk also recorded assist No. 50 on his career and goalie Jack Berry had his second (!!) helper of the season. Goalie assists! You love to see it.

Wisconsin’s mens’ team will face the Fighting Irish again Saturday night in Compton Family Ice Arena with puck drop at 5 p.m. The game airs on NBC Sports Chicago+ and NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and on WIBA 1310 radio.

The Wisconsin women’s team takes on the Gophers in the series finale on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. The game is sold out, but fans can watch the game on FloHockey, BTN+ or listen to it on 100.9 FM.