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Wisconsin women's hockey: Badgers take down Ohio State

Wisconsin's team effort continued as the scoring was spread around -- four different Badgers scored and five different players were credited with assists.

Freshman Sydney McKibbon
Freshman Sydney McKibbon
Nicole Haase

Ohio State scored just :28 into the game and Wisconsin's Katarina Zgraja was called for a body check at :53. It was an inauspicious beginning, but not one that this young Badgers team allowed to set the tenor for the rest of the day. The Badgers fought back Saturday night at LaBahn Arena and eventually pulled away from Ohio State to secure a 4-1 victory over the No. 10 team in the country.

For her part, captain Alex Rigsby takes responsibility for that first goal. "It just was not a good goal" to give up, she said. But it also fired her up for the rest of the game.

"It kind of puts a little fire under me ... so I was like 'OK, I can do this.'"

The first period was evenly matched. After that first goal, the Badgers collected themselves and though they were down on the scoreboard, they matched Ohio State shot for shot. Despite OSU playing a much quicker style of hockey than is seen throughout the rest of the WCHA, Wisconsin was able to keep pace and adjust.

And as the second period clicked away, you could see the Badgers pull away from the Buckeyes. Despite the team style of Ohio State being faster, Wisconsin's individual players had more pace and they started to beat OSU to the puck, breakaway down the boards, prove themselves more physical and finally put pucks in the net.

Ohio State's most glaring weakness was the inability of goalie Chelsea Knapp to control the puck. Even early in the game, it was clear that there were going to be loose pucks in front of her and the Badgers would just need to find a way to capitalize on them. Knapp struggled to cover the puck as well as giving up a lot of rebounds.

Where the Buckeyes excel is at defense. Twin sisters Kari and Sara Schmitt are two of the best in the nation and they created a wall in front of Knapp that kept the Badgers from being able to pounce on the loose pucks. Where Knapp may have struggled, the OSU defense stepped in, notching 15 blocks in the first period alone.

The Buckeyes packed the front of the net and it was effective for them for most of the game, as the mess of legs and sticks made it difficult for UW to put any wood on the puck.

Coach Johnson said there's no secret to finding those loose pucks and getting them in the net -- the ladies just have to fight for them.

"You have to battle through that. If you're hungry and you want it, you probably have a pretty good chance of getting it. It's just a matter of staying hungry and going after it," said Johnson.

It was Blayre Turnbull who evened the game for Wisconsin just :30 into the second period on a power play goal from the middle of the left circle. Courtney Burke was once again running a great point on the PP as she brought the puck in low and then dished it out to Turnbull. She didn't actually get a great shot off, but the somewhat whiffed slapper made it into a bit of a knuckler that found room in the upper corner. The assist is Burke's fifth on the season and it's Turnbull's fourth goal.

Tieing the game took some pressure off the Badgers. They took control of the game from that point on.

"When you score you create some energy," said Johnson.

The phenomenal freshman line of Sarah Nurse and Sydney McKibbon continued to be prolific as they combined on the second goal of the game. Nurse actually set up the play when she showcased some impressive wheels and puck-handling and won a penalty call.

Nurse won the puck at the blue line and dashed past the OSU defense, who resorted to fouling her to keep her to try to keep her from going one-on-one with the keeper. It didn't work, since the refs called it as a delayed penalty and allowed Nurse to get in on Knapp, anyway. Her shot was deflected, but shortly into the penalty Nurse dished it to McKibbon who was alone in front of the net. She was able to turn and slot it between the goalie's pads and the post to make it 2-1 Wisconsin.

Madison Packer, who sat out last week's second game due to an undisclosed injury, made her return to the ice felt when she found the net in the third period. She admitted that she felt she'd been struggling offensively, so it was a relief to put a puck in the back of the net. She also admitted her shot was really more of a pass that happened to go into the goal. It was clear Packer was hearing Johnson's words in her head about putting the puck on net and seeing what happens.

Brittanny Ammerman closed out the scoring with her team-leading seventh of the year. Turnbull was credited with an assist on the goal, tying her with Ammerman at seven to lead the team.

Heading into yesterday's game, Ammerman was averaging an impressive 1.62 points per game (0.75 goals and 0.98 assists).

Ohio State failed to convert on any of their three power plays. Heading into Saturday's game, Badgers were second in the country on penalty kill at 93.3% - they have scored as many short-handed goals as they've allowed on the power play (3).

The win was Rigsby's 88th -- she needs just three more to tie Jessie Vetter for the Wisconsin career record of 91.