In the inaugural Country Classic tournament held at the Ford Ice Center Bellevue in Nashville, Tenn., the dominant No. 2 Badgers (8-1-1-0 WCHA, 16-1-1 overall) outskated the Harvard Crimson (5-0-0 ECAC, 5-4-0 overall) 5-1 on Friday evening; then the No. 8 Boston College Eagles (10-3-1 Hockey East, 11-4-2 overall) 5-3 on Saturday afternoon.
With a handful of goals in their games against out-of-conference opponents, Wisconsin keeps their No. 2 spot in the NCAA rankings, just behind No. 1 Minnesota (14-1-3, 9-1-2-0 WCHA).
In the first game of the weekend, the Badgers had no luck getting a puck past Harvard’s sophomore goalkeeper Lindsay Reed early in the first period. But, Wisconsin got aggressive after a slow start, and with 12 minutes left in the period, freshman defenseman Teagan Grant assisted senior forward Presley Norby to but the Badgers up 1-0.
But the excitement didn’t peak there. Norby was hungry for seconds, and scored again with a backhand goal minutes into the second frame, assisted by junior forwards Caitlin Schneider and Delaney Drake. Harvard gained a smidge of motivation after the Badger score, when Crimson sophomore linesman Kristin Della Roverewas able to sneak the puck past redshirt senior goalkeeper Kristen Campbell with 12 minutes left in the second, narrowing the deficit to 2-1.
But, Harvard’s score only fired Wisconsin up. Junior forward, and NCAA Second Star of the Week, Daryl Watts tapped one in past the Crimson off an assist by senior forward Abby Roque, who last weekend became only the eighth Badger in history to rack up 100 career assists. Only three minutes later, junior right wing Brette Pettet capitalized on a one-on-one and smashed a puck past Reed again.
Senior forward Alexis Mauermann rounded off the scoring on her third goal of the season with three seconds left in the third frame to lead Wisconsin to a 5-1 win.
"I just told the team, I thought for 60 minutes, it was probably our best game of the season,” head coach Mark Johnson said to Wisconsin Athletics. “Obviously, we scored a couple goals. I just liked the way we played overall. We did a good job, had a lot of momentum throughout the entire game, so we're very pleased. We're very proud of them."
The Badgers have won their last eight games against Harvard and now have a 8-1-0 record all-time against the Crimson.
Harvard went on to get squashed 4-0 by Minnesota on Saturday during tournament play (which was almost as pitiful as the Golden Gophers’ performance in the Battle of the Axe on Saturday evening against the Wisconsin Football team).
"It's huge to get out-of-conference wins for us and Harvard's not a familiar opponent, so I'm glad we played a full sixty minutes today,” Norby said of the game in an interview with Wisconsin Athletics. “That was our goal. We built momentum throughout the game, and I think it was a good win for us."
Although they witnessed the Badger’s offensive and defensive domination on the ice on Friday, the Boston College Eagles still didn’t turkey out, and came out hard on Saturday afternoon to put up a fight against the cardinal and white. But, the Badgers basted them after three tough periods, and five different Badgers ate with five hard-earned pucks in net.
Within the first 20 minutes, the Badgers had already pounded the Eagles with three scores from sophomore right wing Sophie Shirley, sophomore left wing Britta Curl and Roque respectively. After Shirley’s first score, Curl snatched the puck out of mid-air minutes later, and railed one past Eagles sophomore goalkeeper Maddy McArthur. Then, with a minute left in the first, Roque scored off a Badger’s favorite time to be on the ice: the power play.
In the second period, the Badgers put up no points while the Eagles scored two within three minutes of each other. Freshman forward Hannah Bilka and sophomore forward Kelly Browne assisted classmate forward Savannah Norcross, who has nine goals under her belt this season, for the Eagles’ first goal. Freshman forward Caroline DiFiore came in hot minutes later to smack one past Campbell, and post a second point for Boston College.
“In the second, I wouldn't say we really died, we just got some bad bounces, some simple plays, and then we kind of picked it up after a couple penalty kills to regain our momentum, and I think that's really where we started to get it back in the third," Roque said to Wisconsin Athletics.
In the final frame, Drake came to make a statement and scored her first goal of the season, a bottom left rocket, with the help of Norby to put the Badgers up 4-2.
And finally, in a twist of fate, Watts picked up her third point of the weekend and scored an empty netter on her alma mater in the last six seconds to cinch a Wisconsin win. The 2018 Patty Kazmaier Award winner now has 44 points throughout 18 games.
"We just played two good opponents,” Johnson said to Wisconsin Athletics. “Obviously BC is a top-ten team, and from the big picture it really helps out. I tell the team at the end of the game, every game is a learning opportunity. We're going to take some things away from tonight's game, learn from them and try to get better."
Wisconsin returns home to LaBahn next weekend in a conference match-up against No. 9 Minnesota Duluth (4-4-2-1 WCHA, 8-6-2 overall) before the Badgers take a month intermission for Winter Break. The cardinal and white will take on the Bulldogs on Friday night at 7 p.m. with a rematch set for Saturday.