The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team continued their undefeated start on Friday and Saturday with back-to-back wins over the Bemidji State Beavers.
The victories build on the exceptional momentum the Badgers are amassing across the young season as the team continues to show their championship pedigree.
Although Friday and Saturday’s contests produced wins for the Badgers, there are scarce similarities in how the results were achieved. Throughout Friday’s game, Bemidji’s intense defensive philosophy slowed down the nation’s top scoring offense in a way yet to be seen this season.
The Badgers found themselves stuck in a scoreless tie as the second period concluded despite outshooting the Beavers 34-6.
“Bemidji was doing such a great job of parking the bus in front of the net and not letting us get into the dirty areas,” Wisconsin senior forward Casey O’Brien said in the postgame press conference.
A two-on-one rush early in the third period brought the Badgers their biggest scare of the game. Two prime chances for Bemidji State winger Hailey Armstrong seemed destined to break the tie had it not been for an outstanding save by Wisconsin goalie Jane Gervais.
The Badgers looked energized following the stop, immediately taking the puck back up the ice and pressing hard. Wisconsin sophomore Kirsten Simms spun Bemidji State goalie Abbie Thompson around with a shot, giving O’Brien an open net to bury the game's eventual deciding goal.
The Badgers scored three more times in the third to solidify a hard-fought 4-0 victory. Still, many Badgers fans left the game feeling uneasy as WCHA preseason player of the year Caroline Harvey left the game with a lower body injury.
“It's gonna be a while,” head coach Mark Johnson said when asked about Harvey’s potential return. Johnson expected more details in approximately two weeks but said there could have been worse scenarios.
Saturday’s game was far different than Friday’s slow, gritty struggle. It took over 40 minutes for the Badgers to score their first goal on Friday but just 42 seconds for Badgers senior captain Britta Curl to snatch the lead Saturday by deflecting a blue line shot past the Beaver goalie.
Despite grabbing an early lead, the first period of Saturday’s game was the most competitive of the series. This culminated with Hailey Armstrong equalizing for the Beavers off a juicy rebound with five minutes to go in the period.
The Beavers' momentum was short-lived. Less than three minutes after losing the lead, senior forward Maddi Wheeler sliced down the left side of the offensive zone before gliding to the middle of the ice and slotting the puck in blocker side past the goalie.
“[I] just tried to shoot it back where the goalie was coming from [and] use the defense as a screen,” Wheeler said about the go-ahead goal.
The momentum from Wheeler's late goal carried over to the second period, where the Badgers unleashed an offensive barrage that delighted fans and stunned the Beavers. The Badgers scored five times in the second period, including a second goal from Wheeler and two from Simms. The Badgers’ 8-1 final score was a return to dominating form.
The series against Bemidji State concluded a six-game homestand where the Badgers beat their opponents by a combined score of 44-6.
The nation's top-ranked team moves on to an equally long stretch of road games where they will face some of their toughest tests of the season, including series against ranked conference opponents St. Cloud State and Ohio State.