A women's collegiate hockey record crowd descended on the Kohl Center Saturday night to witness the No.1 Wisconsin women's hockey team (24-2-2, 18-2-2-2 WCHA) defeat No. 4 Minnesota (18-7-2, 13-7-2-1 WCHA). The 10,668 in attendance set the single-game record for an NCAA women's hockey game, eclipsing the previous record of 8,263 set by the Badgers at the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic last February.
""I was anticipating anywhere between 6 and 8 [thousand],"" head coach Mark Johnson said. ""We got past that and that's a tribute to the people in Madison.""
As the Badgers took to the ice, it immediately became evident the game would have an unordinary twist. Riding on the energy from the stands, Wisconsin skated to a 3-1 victory over the Gophers in a game that had everything: mesmerizing puck control, dazzling goals, short handed thrillers and even a fight.
The Badgers entered Saturday night with confidence after a performance the night before ending in a shoot-out that saw Wisconsin convert on all three attempts to claim 2 points in the standings.
Taking this momentum and carrying it over to the most electrifying game many on both teams have played, Wisconsin was quick to give what all 10,668 fans were waiting for: goals.
""For a lot of the girls on the team, we've never seen anything like this,""senior Meghan Duggan said.
Just 47 seconds into the first period, junior Hilary Knight received a centering pass from Duggan. The team's all-time points leader knew exactly what to do with the puck, going top left and beating Minnesota goalie Noora Räty to establish an early 1-0 lead.
As the crowd erupted in cheers, and Knight skated around in celebration, the flow of the game was seemingly set in the Badgers' favor.
""It was great to be on the ice for that,"" Duggan said. ""We wanted to score the first in this game … use the momentum of the crowd.""
Special teams played a large role in the outcome of the game, with 12 penalties called, including three roughing penalties in the third period alone. Minnesota would be awarded the first power play of the night on a call that brought the crowd to an uproar.
However, the Gophers came out on the short end of their own player advantage. Following a blocked Minnesota shot, sophomore Brianna Decker took the puck through center and into the Minnesota zone. Weaving past a pair of Gopher defenders, Decker pulled the puck across the front of Räty and beat her on the backhand shot. The unassisted, shorthanded effort put the Badgers on top 2-0 and would prove to be the eventual game winner.
Facing a two- goal deficit early, however, the Gophers didn't roll over and quit. Minnesota's Becky Kortum found the back of the net just under 5 minutes into the second period. Kortum's unassisted effort also came on a shorthanded chance after stealing the puck in the neutral zone from Wisconsin.
The Badgers answered back later in the second. And once again, it came on a power play. Awarded the man advantage, Wisconsin did not waste their opportunity.
Junior Carolyne Prevost took the puck from near the blue line and, working her way into the slot, fired one on net that found its way through Räty's five-hole, stretching the Badger lead back to two.
Following a scoreless third period, the Badgers left the ice claiming yet another victory and solidifying their hold on first place in the WCHA. It is safe to say Badger fans walked away from the Kohl Center happy Saturday night.
""We put on a performance for them and came away with a victory,"" Johnson said. ""I'm sure everyone walked out of this arena with a smile on their face.""