Coming off of a series split with Ohio State last weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers lost their No. 1 ranking to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. As luck would have it, the Gophers were traveling to Madison this very weekend so there was a chance to settle who is actually the best team in the country on the ice!
After 120 minutes of hockey it seems pretty clear to this random blogger that the Badgers (6-2-0 overall, 6-2-0-1 WCHA) are the No. 1 team, no questions asked. UW opened the weekend with an emphatic 5-0 shellacking of the Gophers (8-3-0 overall, 8-3-0-0 WCHA) and followed that up with a 6-3 win on Saturday.
The Badgers opened the scoring onslaught on Friday with two first period tallies, one each from Sophie Shirley and Dara Greig (power play) and the Gophers couldn’t dig themselves out of the early hole.
“I think anytime you can get a goal like that early on, it kind of builds confidence throughout your whole lineup. Getting that early one kind of kick-started our whole team to be able to continue to get pucks to the net like we were talking about before,” Shirley said after the game.
Goalie Kennedy Blair was outstanding, stopping all 30 shots that came her way and keeping the Gophers power play off the board as well. The game on Friday marked the second-straight game at LaBahn Arena in which Wisconsin posted a shutout against the Golden Gophers.
Britta Curl, Nicole LaMantia, Shirley, Daryl Watts and Makenna Webster all recorded two points on Friday night.
Saturday was more of the same for the Badgers as Brette Pettet and Lacey Eden (a freshman who made her UW debut on Friday after joining the team earlier in the week) scored two early goals and looked to put the Gophers away before the first intermission. Unlike Friday, however, the Gophers showed a little fight and scored on the power play late in the first.
In the second period the Gophers scored twice, but Curl scored her second of the weekend to make it 3-3 heading into the final period of the weekend. Watts scored early in the third and then Pettet added her second of the game to make it 5-3 with 15:30 left and Blair kept a clean sheet in the final frame to give the Badgers the sweep. Watts added an empty-netter, for good measure, giving here a team-leading seven goals on the year.
“I think [last weekend] kind of gave us a little bit of a tap on our shoulder to get going. I think as much as it sucked to lose, it was good for us and we kind of took that as fuel for this weekend, just to keep in mind that we can’t take any minutes off and it worked out this weekend for us,” Pettet said after Saturday’s win.
Wisconsin swept a No. 1 ranked team for the first time since doing so against the University of Minnesota-Duluth back on Jan. 6-7, 2002. The Badgers head to St. Cloud State on January 22 and 23. Friday puck drop is set for 3 p.m. CST and Saturday will start at 2 p.m. CST. Both games can be seen live on FloHockey.