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Wisconsin hockey: Badgers beat Bulldogs 4-1 to advance to WCHA finals

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Wisconsin dominated from the opening faceoff and they’ll face the winner of Minnesota and Ohio State on Sunday afternoon.

Drew Hamm

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — The WCHA regular season champion and No. 2 ranked Wisconsin Badgers (27-4-3 overall, 17-4-3-2 WCHA) opened up the WCHA Final Faceoff with a game against the No. 8 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (18-11-6 overall, 11-8-5-3 WCHA) at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn.

Wisconsin scored in each period and kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard after the first period to win the semifinal match up 4-1 on Saturday afternoon.

The first period opened with a bang for the Badgers as they headed to the power play a mere 23 seconds into the game as Sydney Brodt was sent off for checking. WCHA Player of the Year Abby Roque wasted no time in making Brodt pay by sniping the first goal from the slot off assists from Britta Curl and Mekenzie Steffen.

Wisconsin dominated play throughout the first period with an aggressive forecheck that kept Duluth in their own zone for much of the opening 20 minutes. However, having players buzzing around like that left the Badgers open to the counter-attack. Brodt made up for her earlier penalty by scoring four and a half minutes into the game and evening the score at 1-1.

Nearing the end of the period, Brette Pettet drove down the right wing and centered a beautiful pass to the waiting skate of Daryl Watts who kicked it to herself and then tapped it in past Duluth goalie Maddie Rooney to give the Badgers the 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

Duluth came out hot in the second period and were driving play more into Wisconsin’s zone than they did in the first. However, every time they got a chance senior netminder Kristen Campbell was there was a pad or a glove to keep the puck out of the net.

Campbell’s stellar play allowed the Badgers to take a 3-1 lead 7:57 into the period when Caitlin Schneider drifted through the slot and shot one past Mooney from the left circle to extend Wisconsin’s lead.

The Bulldogs definitely had their chances in the second period to cut into the lead, the most glaring miss was by Ryleigh Houston who was left all alone in front of the net and simply had the puck slide off her stick so she couldn’t even get it on the open net.

As the third period started the Bulldogs who, unlike the Badgers, had to play last weekend looked tired. Rooney was still trying to keep her team in it, however, and stoned Sophie Shirley on a great attempt early in the third. The Bulldogs then went on the power play when Chayla Edwards was sent off for tripping.

Campbell wasn’t going to be beaten again on the afternoon and the chants of “Sooooup” grew louder with each save she had during the penalty kill. UMD kept the pressure up and were peppering Campbell with shots throughout the rest of the game. She ended the game saving 34 of 35 shots and earning the game’s 1st Star.

The Bulldogs were forced to pull their goalie with just under two minutes to go and Shirley, who was denied on a scoring chance earlier in the third, calmly deposited the puck into the empty net for the final goal of the game. Shirley ended the game with a goal and an assist, the only player to have multiple points on the day.

Wisconsin now awaits the winner of the other semifinal, Minnesota vs. Ohio State, to decide who will win the conference tournament. The game is on Sunday at 2:07 p.m. CT and can be seen on Fox Sports North and FloHockey.

Post-game thoughts

  • The faceoff circle was a big advantage for the Badgers on Saturday. They won 32 compared to UMD’s 24. Abby Roque (12-of-22) and Brette Pettet (13-of-19) led the way for Wisconsin.
  • Grace Bowlby had two brilliant breakups during Duluth odd-man rushes that may not show up on any highlight reel, but were important in keeping the Bulldogs off the board.
  • Opening statement from Mark Johnson on the game.
  • Sometimes it pays to have the bye, amirite?