Women's Hockey

Focus on dirty goals carries Wisconsin to 5-0 win over St. Cloud

Freshman forward Britta Curl scored twice in Wisconsin's 5-0 win over St. Cloud to kick off the WCHA playoffs Friday afternoon.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

A week after being stymied by an elite WCHA goaltender, Wisconsin made sure it wouldn’t happen again.

Facing off against St. Cloud State’s Janine Alder, the Badgers got pressure around the net, battled for rebounds, elevated the puck and did all the little things they had rued the lack of last time out against Ohio State.

“Last weekend was a wake-up call for a lot of people and the whole week of practice has been awesome,” senior forward Annie Pankowski said. “It definitely rolled into today for sure; it was a completely different atmosphere on the bench.

Those little things paid off as Wisconsin (18-4-2 WCHA, 29-4-2 overall) rolled to a comfortable 5-0 win over the Huskies (5-19-0, 10-24-2) Friday afternoon in the first game of a three-game WCHA first round series.

Throughout the week, head coach Mark Johnson had preached to his team about the three things essential to scoring goals: getting to the net, getting pucks to the net and moving the goaltender’s eyes. 

“Whether it’s our games, the men’s game tonight, or NHL games, those coaches talk about that and the people who are willing to do that are going to score some goals,” Johnson said.

Score goals they did.

A day after being named a top-three finalist for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, Pankowski got the offensive action started for Wisconsin just over six minutes into the game. She chased down a dump-in from defender Natalie Buchbinder, beating two Huskies in the race to the puck, and dumped it off to senior forward Emily Clark. Clark gathered the puck on the goal line and roofed it, giving Alder no chance on the low-angle shot.

Less than a minute later it was the second line pulling off an almost identical play. Freshman forward Sophie Shirley forced a turnover off a dump-in from defender Grace Bowly and dished it to freshman Britta Curl in the low slot. Curl one-timed the puck so quickly Alder never saw the puck, and the St. Cloud netminder was left to check the net behind her.

“I was just kinda shooting at the net, hoping either to get a rebound or have it go in. It worked out,” Curl said. “We did a lot of drills in practice from right in close, getting the puck in the net, and it helped to have reps like that.”

The Badgers applied pressure in front of Alder all afternoon, obscuring her vision and forcing juicy rebounds. Those rebounds didn’t find the net at first with Curl, sophomore forward Caitlin Schneider and Shirley all inches away from connecting on what would’ve been grade-A scoring chances.

Wisconsin’s luck finally broke through late in the second as Curl cleaned up a loose puck from the crease and tucked it just inside the right post for her 18th goal of the year. Johnson called it a “classic” example of the kind of “dirty” goal he had emphasized.

The pressure didn’t let up in the final period, even with Wisconsin leading comfortably. Pankowski got herself on the board after a three-game goalless drought when she slapped a puck out of the air on a rebound of her own shot with 11 minutes remaining.

Two minutes later, she set up junior Presley Norby with a picture-perfect cross-ice pass for her third point of the game.

Minutes after the win, Johnson’s mind was already on Saturday’s game, with the Badgers looking to close out the series.

“It’ll be hard as it always is,” Johnson said. “They’ve got seniors, they’ve got pride, they’ve got good coaching, and you never want your season to end. There will be some pushes tomorrow, and it’s up to us to respond.”

Puck drop for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at LaBahn Arena.

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