The Wisconsin Badgers women's hockey team once again advanced to the second round of WCHA playoffs with a convincing series win over St. Cloud State.
The scoring woes that have plagued the Badgers over recent weeks were not in sight as the team got out to a fast start both nights. Friday night, five different Badgers were on the tally sheet with goals and Saturday night, four different players lit the lamp. That diversity of scoring should serve the Badgers well.
Redshirt sophomore Mikayla Johnson opened the scoring by burying a rebound from a Courtney Burke shot. Burke won it on the near side and carried it in. She built some steam and a St. Cloud player literally bounced off her trying to defend her. Burke took a shot and St. Cloud's goalie was able to deflect it to the opposite side. Unfortunately for St. Cloud, Johnson was right there to collect the puck and score the first goal of the evening.
The second goal came on some extraordinary effort by freshman Emily Clark. She and freshman Annie Pankowski caused a turnover just over the far blue line. Clark came away with the puck and carried it down and then cut in front of the net. She let go with a shot on the far post. Friend gave up the rebound and Clark managed to put it home as her momentum carried her through the crease and down to the ice.
Senior Katy Josephs scored her 10th of the season when she stole a Husky attempt to clear from the top of the near circle. The puck ended right on her stick and with no one between her and Friend, she sniped it home to make it 3-0 in favor of the Badgers.
The fourth goal came about when redshirt senior Brittany Ammerman poked the puck from a St. Cloud defenseman. Senior Blayre Turnbull was able to quickly put a wrister on it and kept it low, so Friend never saw the shot.
Wisconsin now heads to Grand Forks to play North Dakota in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Faceoff. Wisconsin has not won a WCHA semifinal game since 2011. The past two years they've been knocked out by North Dakota. This time they'll be facing them in their home arena.
The three straight early exits from the WCHA tournament mean this year's seniors have yet to win a Final Faceoff game.
Josephs is aware of the losing streak and she and her fellow seniors are intent on ending it.
"For me and the seniors, especially, we’ve lost three times now in the first round of [the Final Faceoff] so going out there, we really want to win," she said. "And we’ve made the really clear to the [underclassmen] that it’s not an option for us to lose this year. We want to win."
That's easier said than done, but Josephs said the success and scoring of this weekend's series gives the team a confidence boost. They aren't looking ahead, but taking each game as it comes.
"I think we just have to refocus. Work on the little things and focus on our own game," she said. "Just working on ourselves and really playing our game. Really focusing on our game and coming out hard and working on every shift as hard as we can. When we have a strong start, we play well and that continues on and sometimes when we come out weak, we have a hard time gaining momentum. So I think that will be a big factor and really have a strong start it will serve us well. Right now, we’re going to try to take it game by game and really work on every little thing."
It's not official yet, but it's likely that Wisconsin and North Dakota will face each other next Saturday at 5 p.m. CT.