The No. 1 ranked Wisconsin women's hockey team improved to 6-0 following a series sweep of conference foe St. Cloud State (2-2) this past weekend at LaBahn Arena.
After raising their 2021 NCAA Championship banner to start the day, Saturday's tilt provided a great exclamation point on the day as the Badgers shut out the Huskies 6-0 in their first conference game.
Maybe Wisconsin used a little too much energy on their pregame celebration, or maybe they forgot that St. Cloud State is better than the Badgers' first two opponents, but either way, Mark Johnson's crew looked sluggish in the first period.
Recording no goals, getting just two shots off on a power play and losing the puck on multiple occasions in the neutral zone, Wisconsin should’ve counted themselves lucky not to be down after the first 20 minutes of play.
The Badgers came out looking much better to start the second period — getting an early chance to break the tie with three shots on goal in the first two minutes — but a Maddi Wheeler slashing penalty forced Wisconsin to go back on the defensive.
Luckily, the Badgers only had to kill off half the penalty as McKenna Wesloh was sent to the penalty box a minute later, turning the power play into a 4-on-4.
Like the Huskies, Wisconsin failed to capitalize on their minute-long man advantage.
The Badgers would get a chance at a full two-minute power play a minute later — this one with a two-man advantage — and would get off seven goals during that time but still couldn't find the back of the net.
After killing off another power play, Wisconsin finally broke the scoreless tie with Wheeler scoring late in the second period. The sophomore brought the puck up on a two-on-one break, looked right as if she was going to pass it to the trailing Sophie Shirley and slotted it just above the Husky netminder's right shoulder to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead heading into the final period of play.
After the final intermission, the Badgers put their stamp on the game, closing play with a five-goal third period for a commanding 6-0 win in game one. Daryl Watts and Sophie Shirley traded two goals each before freshman Sarah Wozniewicz put the exclamation point on the period by skating through the entire St. Cloud State defense before sending a shot into the net with just 13.6 seconds left in the game.
Game two was a much better start for the Badgers.
Watts got the ball rolling earlier for Wisconsin, scoring on the Badgers' first shot of the game while spinning on her knees.
Then, the impossible happened: A Badger opponent scored against Wisconsin’s starting goaltender, Kennedy Blair. Okay, maybe not the impossible, but the St. Cloud State goal past Blair was the first the fifth-year goalie has given up all season, ending her shutout streak of just over 240 minutes.
Sophomore Makenna Webster made sure that 1-1 tie wouldn't last the rest of the period, as the forward would end a scramble in front of the Husky net by sneaking one past St. Cloud State goaltender Sanni Ahola for a 2-1 Wisconsin lead heading into the first intermission.
The second period was all Watts and Webster. The linemates would double their goal totals, assisting one another to bring the Wisconsin lead to 4-1 going into the last 20 minutes of the weekend.
Wisconsin goal leader Casey O'Brien decided she wanted to get in on the goal-scoring fun in the second period, netting her 10th of the season for a 5-1 Badger lead. Wozniewicz would once again score the Badgers' sixth and final goal, tapping in a pass in front of the goal with 84 seconds left to extend her goal streak to four games.
Wisconsin is now up to 39 goals through their first six games this season — leading the nation in that aspect — while only having allowed two against. The 37-point goal difference is the highest in school history through six games. With Webster (19), Watts (16) and O’Brien (15) as first, second and third, respectively, in the nation in points, the Badgers have looked even better than last year’s campaign thus far, and we all know how that ended.
Top-ranked Wisconsin will try to continue their undefeated season this weekend when they hit the road to face Minnesota-Duluth at the Bulldogs’ Amsoil Arena. Friday’s game will start at noon while Sunday’s is at 1 p.m. Both games can be seen live on B1G+.