The Wisconsin Badgers (27-3-2) faced off against Minnesota Duluth (12-14-4) this weekend in Minnesota. The Badgers were able to win the first game of the series by a score of 5-0, and tied the second 3-3. Wisconsin, with the win in the first game, clinched the regular season WCHA title for the third season in a row. Minnesota Duluth was able to pull up to fourth in the conference, passing Bemidji State.
The first game was an absolute blowout in Minnesota, as the Badgers were able to score five goals with five different players —Schneider, Rowe, Williams, Norby and Wellhausen —and goalkeeper Kristen Campbell hung her NCAA leading tenth shutout of the season.
Wisconsin is now guaranteed the first No. 1 seed in the WCHA playoffs beginning in March, and earned a bye in the first round. Senior Baylee Wellhausen reflected on winning the regular season title saying.
“It goes to show you how hard we've worked all season,” she told UWBadgers.com “Obviously, we had our obstacles with last weekend not going our way, but I think our team did a good job bouncing back.”
The second game of the weekend didn’t quite go as well for the Badgers. But, they were able to salvage a tie, and some momentum, from the sloppy game. Wisconsin found themselves down 3-1 going into the final period of the game, but an explosive period from Sophia Shaver, one in which she scored twice, left the final score 3-3.
Shaver’s goals came on two separate power plays, one with 18 minutes left, and one with 13 minutes left in the game. But, Minnesota Duluth’s defense strengthened up for the second half of the period, and the game went to an unofficial shootout.
In the shootout, Sam Cogan gave the Badgers their second shootout win of the season, with the winning goal. Head coach Mark Johnson was pretty happy with how the game ended, saying,“With the way the league was wrapped up yesterday, it's just fun to win. We were down 3-1 going into the third period. So we talked about trying to get one to get ourselves back in it. We found a way to tie the game, and we ended up winning a shootout, so we walk out of the building feeling pretty good about ourselves."
Wisconsin has one last regular season series, next weekend against Minnesota, who is currently ranked third in the WCHA. The Badgers will look to build more momentum leading into the postseason, knowing that executing now will be crucial to their success in the playoffs. Senior, and team captain, Claudia Kepler discussed the team’s mindset for next weekend and beyond.
“Like coach says, from this point on it's going to be playoff hockey,” Kepler said. “We're starting to get into that mode. Each time we get scored on or each time we score a goal, we learn from it and we're going to carry it into the next game."
Minnesota will be looking to improve its standing going into the last weekend of the regular season, so the Badgers know they will have to come out and play hard if they want to win.
Next weekend holds extra importance for six Badger players, as Saturday is senior night in Madison. Fans will be able to give the players an informal goodbye, and help cheer them to the playoffs.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night, and 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Both games will be on Fox Sports Wisconsin.