Annie Pankowski and the Badgers put up plenty of threes this weekend.
Pankowski was one of three players to make the All-WCHA first team, was named a top three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award and finished off the weekend with three goals.
“You come into a school like Wisconsin, and there's a bunch of legacy players in front of you,” the senior forward said. “You're definitely thrown into this mix of amazing talent and of people who can bring that out of you. To be able to leave behind a legacy like that, it's really humbling, and it's really exciting and I’m glad that my career has come to this point.”
Led by Pankowski’s hat trick, Wisconsin (18-4-2 WCHA, 30-4-2 overall) crushed St. Cloud State (5-19-0, 10-25-2) 8-0 to complete a two-game sweep in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
The game started off quick with sophomore defenseman Natalie Buchbinder assisting Pankowski, who slammed the puck into the corner of the net past St. Cloud goaltender Emma Polusny.
“Especially in the first period, there was a lot of times I looked up to make a pass and then just saw an opening to the net,” Pankowski said. “There was definitely a lot of opportunities to score today.”
Later in the period, freshman forward Britta Curl scored her third and fourth goals of the weekend. Curl’s two goals made her the first Badger to the 20-goal mark, beating Pankowski there by a period.
“I think coming into the season I had a pretty open mind, but I knew I wasn't going to just hop right on and be one of the top players,” Curl said. “It's taken some time, and I've had a lot of teammates who have helped out.”
Sophomore and fellow left wing Caitlin Schneider scored in the first period too, knocking the puck past Polusny with an assist by senior captain Sophia Shaver.
“[Curl’s] not afraid to get in the dirty areas, which we talked about all week,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “She’s got a real great shot, and everybody saw that on the first goal when she slipped the puck past the goalie from probably 25 feet out under the bar. Curl kept the puck in the zone, and she can beat goalies from that distance.”
In the second period, Wisconsin scored a lone goal from Pankowski, her fourth time reaching the 20-goal plateau.
“[Annie’s] a special player,” Johnson said. “She’s been a good player for four years. When she got the puck yesterday and we she got it today, she makes a lot happen with it, whether she’s scoring or setting up somebody else for a nice play like what happened with Norby yesterday. It’s good to see.”
Pankowski earned a hat trick in the final frame and brought her weekend total to four goals.
After Pankowski’s goal, another pair of Badgers — sophomore defender Nicole Lamantia and junior forward Presley Norby — found the back of the net to seal the final score.
“If you look at the talent on this team, there's no reason we shouldn't be putting up eight or nine goals against a team,” Pankowski said. “But it's going to come down to our mental battle and how much we can win that battle with ourselves and bring out the best in our teammates. We do the best at that when we're having fun and we're not holding our sticks too tight.”
The Badgers will play on March 9 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, against No. 10 Ohio State in the second weekend of the WCHA playoffs. If they win, they will advance to the WCHA championship game, seeking their fourth conference tournament title in five years.
“You can't ask for a bigger fire under this team and that's just really dangerous for us,” Pankowski said. “We're just going to be all over, I can feel it.”