The No. 1 Wisconsin Badger women’s hockey team (6-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) swept the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-2-0, 0-0-2 WCHA) in their away series this weekend. The win on Saturday marked head coach Mark Johnson’s 500th career win as a Wisconsin women’s hockey coach, making him the first NCAA women’s hockey coach to reach that milestone.
The Badgers shutout the Buckeyes in the first match-up on Friday night, and senior forward Abby Roque scored her fourth goal of the year with an assist by forward linemates sophomore Sophie Shirley and junior Daryl Watts. During a power play, Roque got a fast one past Ohio State sophomore goalkeeper Andrea Braendli in the second period after a scoreless first period.
"I think we just have a lot of great personnel out there,” Roque said in an interview with Wisconsin Athletics. “I think you put that all together, it's hard not to score goals.”
Watts drove another nail in the Buckeye coffin after scoring on an open net with 1:21 left in the final period, which marked her fifth game in a row she’s scored a goal for the Badgers. Senior defenseman and captain Mekenzie Steffen scored her first goal of the season after capitalizing on another power play to bring the Badger lead up to 3-0 with less than a minute left in the final period.
“In this rink, you really have to manage the puck, be aggressive on their forecheck, and if you make turnovers in certain areas of the rink, it just makes things really challenging,” Johnson said in an interview with Wisconsin Athletics. “When you manage the puck, the game becomes a lot easier to play in.”
Senior goalkeeper Kristen Campbell further demonstrated her prowess in the net by blocking all 17 shots the Buckeyes made on her and earned her third shut-out of the season.
In Saturday afternoon’s game, Wisconsin outscored Ohio State 7-3 with four of the Badger’s goals scored in the final frame and converting on all four of its power play chances. Wisconsin has scored 13 power play goals this season and leads the country in power play conversions with a .520 success rate.
The win did not come easy for the Badgers, however. After winning the puck-drop, the Buckeyes managed to score the first goal of the game thanks to junior forward Emma Maltais 10 minutes into the first frame. It marked the first time in nine games that the Badgers gave up an even-strength goal.
The Badgers quickly bounced back, though, after senior defenseman Maddie Rowe and Watts scored a pair of goals to round out the first 20 minutes. Steffen came back fired up in the second frame and scored her second goal of the series, bringing the score to 3-1. Grace Shirley, Sophie Shirley’s younger sister, assisted Steffen’s point and earned her first career point at Wisconsin.
Ohio State cranked up the pressure and scored two more goals in the middle of the period, to even the score at 3-3.
But Steffen wasn’t yet ready to let the Buckeyes keep on par with her team. Steffen scored on a power play halfway through the third period to put the Badgers up, and then 2019 WCHA Rookie of the Year Sophie Shirley immediately followed up 43 seconds later when she sent the puck into the back of the net for her 50th career point, putting the Badgers up 5-3.
"Honestly, we talked about three things before we got here this weekend and they were: compete, communicate and manage the puck,” Steffen said, “and I thought we really emphasized those three points, and in that third period, we just gave it everything we had, and I think we really made a statement here in Ohio.”
With less than five minutes left in the final period, Roque smacked one past Braendli, and then Watts scored the seventh and final Badger goal on a power play to beat the Buckeyes 7-3.
“It's our third weekend here and we just swept Ohio at Ohio,” Steffen said to Wisconsin Athletics. “I think that's a huge thing to build off of. That's a great turning point for us, and we're going to get back to work on Monday and just build off of that and be ready for next weekend."
The Badgers will fly out east next weekend to take on the Long Island University Sharks. The non-conference match-up will start on Friday at 2 p.m. at the IceWorks Arena and continue on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the New York Islander’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum arena.