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Wisconsin women’s hockey: defending national champs open season with sweep

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The Badgers outscored Lindenwood 18-1 on the weekend.

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey Championship Photo by Justin Berl/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The back-to-back national champion Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team took to the ice for the first time in the 2021-22 season this weekend and, boy howdy, did they look like they have a three-peat on the brain. UW travelled to play the Lindenwood Lions and won both games by a combined 18-1 score.

Wisconsin was led by sophomore forward Casey O’Brien who scored twice on Friday night in an 8-1 win and then poured in four (!!!!) goals on Saturday to dispatch the Lions 10-0. She became the first Badger to record a natural hat trick since Hilary Knight did so against RPI during the 2010-11 season.

“I’m just having a lot more fun playing this year, I’m a lot more confident and I think I showed that this weekend and our whole team, my linemates especially, are having a ton of fun playing together. That’s what we showed this weekend,” O’Brien said after Saturday’s victory.

Wisconsin has historically started off their seasons quickly as they remain undefeated in September with a 19-0-1 record and also are undefeated against Lindenwood with a 19-0-0 ledger against the Lions.

On Friday night, O’Brien and Maddi Wheeler each scored twice while Sophie Shirley and Daryl Watts each added three assists. Watts also notched her first goal of the season which moved her up the NCAA record books as the senior is in 14th place in career goals with 109 while she moved into a tie for 12th place in NCAA history in points with 244. She is tied with UW legend Brianna Decker and Boston College standout Haley Skarupa.

Five Badgers made their debuts on Friday night, including Jane Gervais, who played the final 20 minutes in net for UW. Gervais also played the third period of the second game, allowing zero goals on four shots. Top goalie Kennedy Blair started game one while Cami Kronish started game two.

Four Badgers recorded their first career points in the second game of the series as Kendra Nealey, Sarah Wozniewicz, Mayson Toft and Marianne Picard all earned assists Saturday afternoon. Nicole LaMantia had three assists for UW on Saturday to lead the defense.

Head coach Mark Johnson was pleased that he was able to cycle through a bunch of players in this series to get everyone some ice time.

“The important thing is that everybody got to play. We were able to distribute some minutes to our goaltenders and everybody got a feel of it. For the players, with 11 forwards they got mixed and matched a little bit so people got to play with different people than they normally would. Overall, you look at the script and it was written pretty well. We just were able to execute it. I’m very happy with the way things came out,” Johnson said after the win on Saturday.

Wisconsin continues its road swing with a trip to Merrimack next weekend. The first-ever meeting between the Badgers and Warriors will take place on Friday at 1 p.m. CT while the two teams will wrap up their series on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.