The Wisconsin Badgers (26-1-1) came out and notched another victory against St. Cloud State (6-16-3) by a score of 3-2 on Sunday. Coming off of a 4-0 victory yesterday afternoon, Wisconsin looked a bit off without star defender, senior Mikaela Gardner, but was still able to get the job done as it has all season. St. Cloud State was coming off a 6 game stretch where they went 3-2-1, doubled its season win total over that span.
The Badgers started out a little sloppy through the first few minutes of the game. Wisconsin struggled to keep the puck out of its own zone, looking a bit sluggish out of the gate. St. Cloud State was playing more physically, mounting pressure on UW.
But the Badgers righted the ship quite quickly when sophomore forward Alexis Mauermann found herself on a breakaway and shot a wrister past St. Cloud goalie Emma Polusny to put the Badgers up 1-0. The Badgers, however, weren’t done scoring in the first. A loose puck down by Polusny would rattle around for a bit resulting in a pile up, and during the scrum St. Cloud’s Abby Thiessen cross checked redshirt senior forward Claudia Kepler, stopping the play and allowing for a review. After a minute of deliberation, the referees found that Kepler had just nudged the puck into the net, resulting in another goal and a 2-0 first period lead for the Badgers.
Although Wisconsin was up 2-0, it didn’t look like it had as much control as it wanted heading into the second period. UW’s offense went through a few lulls and had struggled to keep the Huskies out of the Badgers defensive zone. St. Cloud State capitalized on the Badgers lackluster play seven and a half minutes into the second with a goal of their own by Dana Rasmussen. With the score at 2-1, Wisconsin answered quickly a minute later with an unassisted goal by senior defenseman Maddie Rolfes to put Wisconsin up 3-1.
“I got lucky that it bounced off their skate,” Rolfes said. “The gods were on our side today.”
The third period opened up with the Badgers up 3-1 with the Huskies refusing to be put away. St. Cloud State would eventually come back within one with a goal seven minutes into the third. The two teams would go back and forth, trading solid offensive possessions for the remainder of the third, with St. Cloud State coming so close so many times but never being able to put the puck in net. This stalemate would eventually culminate in an intense 30 second final possession for St. Cloud State. With its goalie pulled, the Huskies put all their cards on the table and gave it one last shot. But Wisconsin’s defense proved too tough, not allowing St. Cloud to even have a chance at a shot on goal.
Without Gardner anchoring the defense, Wisconsin seemed a bit off Sunday afternoon, as fatigue may have factored into the sloppiness.
“Shortening down to five defenders got a bit tiring,” Kepler said. “We’re looking forward to having Mikaela back soon.”
With the win, Wisconsin moves within one game of clinching the WCHA regular season title. Head coach Mark Johnson is trying to keep his team in the present, however, saying “we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”
Wisconsin’s next series will be against Ohio State in Columbus next weekend, hoping to clinch the conference and move on to the Tournament in a hot streak.