Wisconsin starts weekend on a high note

Facing its biggest challenge of the year so far, No. 3 Wisconsin (5-0-0 WCHA, 7-0-0 overall) continued its defensive dominance Friday night, as it recorded its fifth-consecutive shutout en route to defeating No. 6 Bemidji State (3-1-1, 6-1-2) 3-0.

With Bemidji State being the first ranked opponent Wisconsin has faced all year, head coach Mark Johnson believes winning a game like this is important to the team’s growth.

“It was a good team effort,” Johnson said. “We learned a lot more about our club facing an opponent like this, and we can take a lot of good things away from this.”

The Badgers imposed their will on the Beavers in the first period, as they dominated possession and were extremely physical, winning most of the battles along the boards.

Bemidji State goalie Brittni Mowat is one of the strongest in the nation, and she was critical in keeping the game scoreless for the first half of the first period, but eventually the Badgers opened up the scoring, as senior Rachel Jones redirected an effort from freshman Mikaela Gardner into the net.

“I was going to the net and our defense had the puck and I saw them shooting,” Jones said. “And I tried to redirect it the best I could, hoping it would be a rebound or go into the net, and it just so happened it went into the net.”

The second goal came later in the first, when freshman Sam Cogan received a pass that sliced through the defense and presented Cogan with an open lane as she slotted the puck past Mowat.

Cogan attributed her goal more to the player that made the pass, junior Jenny Ryan, than herself.

“I give credit to Jenny for that, she had great vision and I was just in the right spot and able to bury it,” Cogan said.

But after the first period, the Badgers' dominance started to fade and the game became more of what was expected. Plagued by penalties from both teams, there were no goals scored in the second, but the Beavers outshot the Badgers 6-5.

“They did a really good job of blocking shots,” Cogan said. “Just getting in front of pucks, they are big players and know how to use their bodies well.”

Despite the game balancing out, the defense continued to stand strong for Wisconsin, not allowing a single goal for the Beavers.

“It starts in the net, and then you move out and have experience on the blue line, try to eliminate scoring opportunities which we did a really good job of,” Johnson said. “Then when we did give up a few chances, Ann[-Renée Desbiens] made a couple nice saves. It’s a team effort.”

Despite the win and the shutout, Johnson knows there is room for improvement.

“But we need to make some improvements in our game by limiting our turnovers more,” Johnson said.

With seconds left and Bemidji State’s goalie pulled, sophomore Annie Pankowski fired the third goal into the open net to seal the win.

Facing the Beavers in the second game of the series tomorrow, Pankowski believes their struggles in this game will only help in the next one.

“Now that we know what they have, we can bring it to another level,” Pankowski said.

The puck drops at 3 p.m. tomorrow at LaBahn Arena.

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