ARLINGTON, VA. — Wisconsin’s trip to the nation’s capital was supposed to serve as a chance for a pair of additional non-conference games, as well as continue head coach Mark Johnson’s tradition of playing neutral site games in areas without a women’s collegiate program.
But instead the No. 1 Badgers (16-1-0) were dealt their first loss of the season Friday in a monumental upset, as they fell to upstart Northeastern (8-7-1) 3-2 in suburban Washington, D.C.
The Huskies capitalized on a slow start from UW and a sterling 39-save performance from freshman goalie Aerin Frankel to become the first unranked team to beat Wisconsin since Bemidji State in January of 2015.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities and their goaltender played really well,” Johnson said.
It didn’t take Northeastern long to jump out to a surprising lead. After sophomore defenseman Mekenzie Steffen was whistled for roughing four minutes in, Huskies forward senior forward McKenna Brand followed up on her own shot and put the rebound by redshirt sophomore goaltender Kristen Campbell.
Campbell was then forced to make several key saves in the first 20 minutes to keep the Northeastern lead at one. At the end of the first period, the Huskies outshot Wisconsin 10-9 and were flustering a Badger team used to holding its own in puck possession.
Johnson attributed the slow start to a two-week layoff since their last competitive game.
“We can practice but competition, game speed is different than practice,” Johnson said. “Even so the first period was okay, we had a couple opportunities and it was back and forth.”
Just seconds into the second period, Northeastern grabbed its second goal, with redshirt junior Tori Sullivan beating Campbell after a deflection off of the boards.
The Badgers were dominant for much of the second period, however, but had trouble beating Frankel, who showed why she has been named one of the top defensive players in the Hockey East conference.
Wisconsin finally struck midway through the period, when junior forward Sam Cogan darted behind the Huskies’ defense on a breakaway and beat Frankel to cut the deficit to 2-1.
That momentum continued in the third period, as Wisconsin came painfully close to finding an equalizer. First a long range shot from Steffens rang off the post and, despite initial thoughts that the puck had crossed the goal line, was waved off.
Then Cogan and forward Baylee Wellhausen could not connect on a two-on-one breakaway moments later and a 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity midway through third also could not produce an equalizer.
Northeastern put the game away shortly thereafter, after sophomore defenseman Codie Cross exited the penalty box, grabbed a loose puck and slotted the ensuing breakaway past Campbell to give the Huskies the winning goal.
Sophomore Abby Roque scored with six seconds remaining in the game but it was too little too late for the Badgers.
Despite the loss, which ended the fourth longest unbeaten run in school history, Johnson said he felt the team played well and would be ready to play Boston University (5-6-2) tomorrow in Arlington.
“Over the course of the season you’re going to get bounces, the other team is going to get bounces and they don’t always go your way,” he said. “The nice thing is the last 40 minutes we played well and created opportunities. We had 100 attempted shots on goal, which is quite high. The [opportunities] we had, we hit posts and missed nets and that’s just part of the business.”