In their first series of February, No. 1 Wisconsin (14-2-1-0 WCHA, 24-2-1 overall) stomped unranked St. Cloud State (1-17-1-0 WCHA, 5-19-4 overall) 11-1 at LaBahn Arena in Madison. After losing 5-0 yesterday against the Badgers, the Huskies stopped themselves from another shut-out, but couldn’t save themselves from a good old-fashioned Badger beating.
The game marked the 25th game in a row where Wisconsin has beaten St. Cloud, a streak which kicked off on five years ago today on Feb. 2, 2015.
The Badgers momentum and confidence carried over from yesterday’s game, and they picked up six goals in the first period alone.
Senior forward Abby Roque started off the afternoon by receiving the puck at the red line to take it to the net and score on the Huskies in the first 30 seconds. Junior defenseman Grace Bowlby’s assist allowed the alternate captain to capture her 21st goal of the season.
“I think [the fire] carried over from yesterday,” sophomore forward Sophie Shirley said. “We had three really good periods, and coming into it, coach said we need to do the same things that we did yesterday, and I think [that] we were forechecking hard, we had good contact and gettings pucks to the net, and things kinda just went our way.”
Everybody ate today, with junior forward Delany Drake scoring for the second time this season, not even halfway through the first period with 11:30 left. Sophomore defenseman Nicole LaMantia followed that one up 45 seconds later with a score of her own, her third of the season.
Shirley brought the score up to 5-0 — the final score of yesterday’s game — with three minutes to go in the first.
After the Huskies’ freshman forward Klara Hymlarova was called for tripping, junior forward Brette Pettet capitalized on the power play and sent another one sailing over Husky goaltender Emma Polusny’s left shoulder to pick up the Badgers’ sixth goal of the game and her 10th of the season-- all still within the first 20 minutes of play.
“With that line-up switch that they did and with everything kind of just got everyone going and I think with that, we are building some new chemistry and it’s going well for us,” Shirley said about each line’s ability to work flawlessly with one another.
In just her third game of the season, junior goaltender Breanna Blesi stood strong between the poles to block both of the Huskies’ shots on goal, a repeat from the first period of yesterday’s game. Blesi replaced redshirt senior goaltender and WCHA Goaltender of the Week Kristen Campbell this series due to Campbell getting injured during Friday’s practice.
“We are used to having Soupie there in the games, but I think our team had full confidence in Bre when she did go in and she did very well for us,” Shirley said. “We’re really proud of her, and it was a great couple games by her.”
Less than five minutes into the second period, Curl knocked yet another one past Polusny with the help of junior forward Daryl Watts and linemate Roque.
The Huskies got a second wind over halfway through the period and drove hard to the Wisconsin net, but the Badgers kept St. Cloud down with Blesi and her defensemen shutting them down at every opportunity and knocking the puck out of their defensive zone.
But, the Huskies were starving and in the mood for a kill. Hymlarova, making up for her penalty earlier in the game which led to Pettet’s goal, snuck past the Badger defensive to knock one in past Blesi. This marks the first time Blesi has been scored on this season, ruining her perfect save percentage.
“It made us realize we need to play all 60 minutes and keep it consistent,” LaMantia said. “It kinda made us turn around and say, ‘hey, let’s get going here’. I think it was good for us to rebound from that and keep it going for the next 20 or so minutes.”
While Wisconsin forwards did not take kindly to Hymlarova’s score — which killed their chances of shutting out St. Cloud all weekend — they could not answer her goal in the remaining time.
In the third period, senior forward Presely Norby, who scored two of Wisconsin’s three goals against Minnesota last Saturday, tapped the puck in behind Polusny’s back after a hard shot from junior linemate Caitlin Scheider.
Although both teams looked lethargic throughout most of the period after Norby’s goal, Watts provided a little more excitement for LaBahn when her shot on goal barely eked past the goal line to bring the score up to 9-1. Watts continues to lead the Badgers in scoring with 40 assists, 22 goals and over 60 points.
Then, in the last three minutes, Shirley proved why she was the 2019 Rookie of the Year when she knocked a puck in off a perfectly-placed assist from Pettet, bringing Wisconsin to a nine-point lead over St. Cloud, and Drake picked up her second of the day to bring it to the final score of 11-1 to end this series.
“Three of the goals from the first period were learning from last night, showing a couple of video clips this morning of how you navigate,” Head Coach Mark Johnson said. “Mankato is going to do the same thing [the Huskies] did where they pack it in tight and get into position, so [you have to ask] ‘how can I create opportunities without turning the puck over. Those [are the] things we’ll take away from this weekend.”
The Badgers will take to the road next weekend to faceoff against the unranked Minnesota State Mavericks at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato, Minn., on Friday and Saturday afternoon.