The Wisconsin women’s hockey team (18-3-3) dropped both games against Minnesota (19-6-1) at the Gophers’ Ridder Arena this weekend, getting swept by their rivals to the west for the first time since February 2014.
Missed chances were the story for the Badgers in the opening game of the series.
Less than two minutes into the first period of game one, an Emily Oden tripping penalty gave Wisconsin an opportunity to take command early in the game against their rivals.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, they couldn’t capitalize on that chance, failing even to get off a shot during the two-minute man advantage.
Even worse, that wasn’t the only failed powerplay of the night (or even the first period) for the girls in red.
After both teams went into the first intermission scoreless, the Gophers finally broke the deadlock, pulling ahead 1-0 thanks to Madeline Wethington’s goal just over a minute after Minnesota’s penalty kill unit foiled the Badgers’ powerplay line yet again.
That Gopher lead held for the final seven minutes of the second period, and Minnesota went into the last period of play up 1-0 despite Wisconsin outshooting the home team 30-19 through the first 40 minutes of the game.
The Badgers finally capitalized on their fourth powerplay of the night as Daryl Watts received the puck deep in the Gopher zone, skated along the opposing goal line, and flipped a backhanded shot over the Minnesota netminder to tie the game at one apiece. The goal was Watts’ 275th career point, making her only the sixth player in NCAA women’s hockey history to achieve that milestone.
With 4:41 left on the powerplay, Wisconsin was in a prime position to capture a game-winner, but a Watts interference penalty put a hamper on those thoughts.
After two minutes of four-on-four hockey, Watts stepped back onto the ice, but the 59 seconds left of the man advantage was not enough for the Badgers to find a winner.
Still with the momentum, Wisconsin had the opportunity to take the lead but failed to seize their chances again.
Instead, it was Minnesota finding the back of the net. Potomak and Wethington started a two-on-one rush and ended with the former tapping the puck past Wisconsin’s Kennedy Blair to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead with 2:34 left to play.
An extra skater for the Badgers over the final 1:30 of the third period wasn’t enough, and Minnesota won the first game of the weekend.
With at least one powerplay opportunity in each period and five in the whole game, Wisconsin could have — and should have — won this game by multiple goals. Powerplays have been a weak point all season for these Badgers. Sitting at a 17.6% conversion rate, Wisconsin sits 17th in the country and 5th in the conference in powerplay percentage, a number they’ll need to improve if they hope to be once again crowned national champions.
The Badgers came out hotter in the second game.
Wisconsin’s Brette Pettet put the Badgers in front with her goal four minutes into the first period, and it looked like Wisconsin was back to their normal form.
The Badgers’ first lead of the weekend didn’t last long, though, as Minnesota’s Crystalyn Hengler knotted up the affair 96 seconds later.
The game would settle down for the next 11 minutes, but a barrage of goals at the end of the first period gave the Gophers a 3-2 lead at the end of the first 20 minutes.
A Taylor Heise goal early in the second doubled the Minnesota lead, and the Gophers went into the third period up 4-2, looking for their first sweep of the Badgers in almost eight years.
Pettet would light the lamp a second time two minutes into the final period, and the Badgers’ attempt at a comeback started again.
Wisconsin went on the attack but failed to find the equalizer around Minnesota’s netminder, Lauren Bench.
Like the first game, the Badgers’ powerplay unit once again let them down in the series finale.
Wisconsin had seven powerplays in the series totaling 15 minutes of player advantages. In those 15 minutes, the Badgers only had five shots on goal, a number that won’t win you games in this conference. The women’s team will need to be better if they hope to make any kind of run in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Wisconsin has a perfect chance to take out their anger this weekend when they face St. Cloud State — the second-worst team in the WCHA Conference.