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Wisconsin hockey: WCHA REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONS!

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The Badgers had a miraculous comeback against Minnesota Duluth to clinch the conference title outright on Sunday.

@BadgerWHockey; UW Communications

Before the puck dropped on Sunday afternoon, the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers (27-4-3, 17-4-3-2 WCHA) knew they only needed one point from their game against the No. 9 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (16-10-6, 11-8-5-3 WCHA). Easy enough, right?

Wrong.

The Badgers fell behind 2-0 halfway through the second period off a shorthanded goal by Ryleigh Houston of UMD and things were looking, well, not good. Two minutes and 49 seconds later, Abby Roque scored on the power play to give the Badgers life and two and a half minutes after that Alexis Mauermann tied the game up to send it into the third period 2-2.

The third period was, to use a technical hockey term, bonks city.

Daryl Watts scored her 24th goal of the season, to tie Roque for second on the team, just 47 seconds into the final frame and it appeared that the Badgers had completely switched the momentum of the game and would carry it all the way through to the win.

Sydney Brodt of UMD had other ideas, however, as she scored twice in the next three minutes to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead. Duluth would put the nail in the coffin at the 16:28 mark of the third as Anna Klein scored to give them a 5-3 lead. Game over. Badgers are forced to share the WCHA regular season title with the loathsome Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Badgers pulled Kristen Campbell as UW went on the power play with just over two minutes left in the game as a Hail Mary effort. AND IT FREAKING WORKED!

Sophie Shirley scored her team-leading 28th goal with 59 seconds left on the 6-on-4 power play (the Badgers power play was 2-for-5 on the afternoon. UW continues to lead the country in power-play percentage with a .353 clip (36-of-102)) to pull the Badgers within one and then Roque added her second of the game to tie it up with 15 seconds left to send it to overtime! You basically never, ever see this and this team is amazing.

The Badgers just needed to not give up a goal in OT and they would be the WCHA champs. Instead of doing that, Watts decided to score a SICK goal in the 3-on-3 double OT to give the Badgers an extra WCHA point and leave no doubt about who the best team in the conference is. Oh, and the goal ended up as the No. 1 play on a little show called SportsCenter on Sunday night.

Watts, who is trying to win her second career Patty Kazmaier Award, is having a transcendent season. She is the engine that makes the Wisconsin offense go and is the best player in the country in our humble opinion. Watts is going to need a separate room in her house for all of the commemorative pucks she is accumulating.

The Badgers are WCHA champions for the eighth time and have a bye in the first round of the conference tournament. The Badgers will open the WCHA Final Faceoff at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis with a semifinal match up on Saturday, March 7 at 2 p.m. against the lowest remaining seed in the tournament.

Here are some quotes from the rink, courtesy of A.J. Harrison and the UW Athletic Department.

  • Head coach Mark Johnson on winning the title: “For people that know our league and understand our league, the team that is able to play consistently throughout the season within our league games, they’re usually the ones who earn the trophy. We have four teams in the top seven or eight in the country, and so we’re playing against each other quite a bit. If you’re consistent and have success against each other, then at the end, you get to hold up the trophy.”
  • Watts on breaking the school record for assists: “It’s an honor to be mentioned among those two great players, [Megan Duggan and Sara Bauer]. All the credit to my awesome linemates like Sophie [Shirley], Brette [Pettet], Abby [Roque], really everyone. They’ve finished all my assists, and I’m just lucky to be a part of this special team.”
  • Watts on scoring the championship clinching goal: “I was racing down the ice. Britta [Curl] gave me an unreal pass, so it was kind of a one-on-one and then I didn’t really have a step on her to beat her to the outside, so I guess I just tried to put it through her, and it worked. The top left side was open, and I shot it there. Thankfully it went in, and we won.”