The Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team was in a bit of an unfamiliar position heading into this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Badgers, who are usually a seeded team that hosts opening round games at LaBahn Arena, were in Boston to take on the Clarkson Golden Knights in the opening round of the tourney.
UW used a balanced scoring effort to dispatch the Golden Knights, 3-1, on Thursday night. Wisconsin received goals from Maddi Wheeler, Daryl Watts and the empty net clincher from Delaney Drake.
Wheeler opened the scoring near the end of the first period as she drove down the right side of the Clarkson zone, making a nifty move to get in on goal and slip the puck past Amanda Zeglen.
“It’s always good to get the first goal in the game and set the tone. It was definitely good to go in after the first period with a little bit of confidence,” Brette Pettet said after the game.
The Badgers received their first power play chance in the middle of the second period and were, shockingly, able to cash in and take a 2-0 advantage. Nicole LaMantia fired a puck across the goal mouth to Watts on the far side who made no mistake and buried the puck into the back of the net.
In the middle of that power play, there was some extra curricular activity after a stoppage that resulted in four players, two from each team, getting sent to the penalty box for roughing. It was the hallmark of a chippy, playoff hockey game.
In the third period, the Badgers were down two players and killed off a 5-on-3 Clarkson power play, which was probably the final nail in the coffin for the Golden Knights’ chances. Clarkson did score a goal near the end of the game after they pulled their goalie for an extra attacker, but Drake added the empty-netter to cap off the scoring.
Wisconsin’s defense throughout the game was fantastic, smothering Clarkson attacks at just about every opportunity. UW set a season high in blocked shots with 25 and Grace Bowlby and Katie Kotlowski led the team with five blocks each. The Badgers also killed off five penalties, upping their national leading penalty kill percentage to .938.
Kennedy Blair was strong in goal, stopping 30 shots to earn win No. 23 of the year. “I think the whole game she was huge for us, she stopped some huge plays that helped us keep the momentum,” senior defender Grace Bowlby said.
Wisconsin will face third-seeded Northeastern in a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship game for the quarterfinal on Saturday. Puck drop is set for noon CT at Matthews Arena in Boston. The game can be heard live on 100.9 FM in Madison and can be seen for free on Sports Live, the same place as the game against Clarkson was streamed on.