Women's Hockey

Badgers fight through physical Minnesota State defense with 'garbage goals' in 4-1 win

Freshman Sophie Shirley scored her 17th goal of the year, moving her into the team lead ahead of senior forward Annie Pankowski.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

75 seconds into the game, Sophie Shirley got a step on her defender, turned the corner and crashed the net with the puck on her stick. The freshman forward crashed into Minnesota State goalie Abigail Levy and though the initial shot didn’t go, a second attempt forced it across the goal line.

Shirley’s goal set the tone for Wisconsin’s entire game on Sunday afternoon, as the Badgers (16-4-0 WCHA, 26-4-0 overall) battled around the net and in the crease on their way to a 4-1 win over the Mavericks (3-14-3, 9-15-5) — with all four goals coming from within 10 feet.

“Our main thing was to try to get pucks to the net and once we got pucks to the net we were crashing to the net too,” Shirley said. “A couple of our goals were those garbage goals in the crease and it was important that we were getting after it.”

Wisconsin’s grind-it-out scoring was forced by a Mavericks defense that played physically, holding and interfering with Wisconsin’s skaters as they tried to produce rushes up the ice. Aside from Shirley’s goal, the Badgers were frustrated offensively to begin the game with only three shots on goal in the first seven minutes.

Shirley was the victim of a hold herself as she rushed up the ice midway through the first period, unable to get her stick on a pass from linemate Abby Roque that slid just out of her reach. Boos from the Badger fans rained down on several occasions as the no-calls piled up.

“They could’ve called about four or five more penalties the first period if they wanted to,” head coach Mark Johnson said.

The Badgers broke through again at the end of the period, as a point shot from junior forward Presley Norby bounced to senior Sophia Shaver. Shaver wasn’t able to bury it, but she kept it in the crease where junior Alexis Mauermann slipped it past Levy after several efforts.

“One of our focuses was just to compete if we’re gonna get one shot, to keep whacking at it and whacking at it,” senior forward Sam Cogan said. “It might take five whacks, six whacks to get it in so we knew going in that it was not gonna be easy but if we kept whacking at it that it would eventually go in.”

Wisconsin complemented its effort around the net with a sterling early defensive performance that kept Minnesota State from even sniffing the ice around goaltender Kristin Campbell. The Mavericks managed only three total shot attempts in the first period, all from the perimeter.

Up a pair of goals, Wisconsin kept the pressure on early in the second and again it was Shirley who found the back of the net, slamming home a cross-ice feed from Cogan on the doorstep. It was the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native’s 17th strike of the year, moving her into the team lead and second in the nation amongst freshmen. 

The Badgers kept the pressure on, limiting Minnesota State to just two more shots on goal in the second period. Both were point-blank looks on breakaways, but Campbell stood tall and stoned both chances.

A goal on a mishandled rebound that squirted past Campbell and 67 seconds of five-on-three power play threatened to get Minnesota State back in the game, but Wisconsin’s penalty killers limited the damage to just two shots on goal, and used the acquired momentum to close out the win.

“We got challenged there at the end, if they capitalize on both of them the score is four to three,” Johnson said. “We did a good job to eliminate some quality opportunities.”

With the win, Wisconsin moved two points ahead of rival Minnesota in the WCHA standings with four games to play, giving the Badgers the inside track to capture yet another regular-season conference crown.

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