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Friday, June 21, 2024

Badgers dominate in first round of WHCA playoffs to earn semifinal spot

Wisconsin women’s hockey put on an offensive clinic on their way to another final four appearance.

Wisconsin women’s hockey has their eyes set on an eighth national championship, and the No. 2 Badgers are one step closer after their first-round playoff series sweep vs. St. Thomas. Kirsten Simms led the team to a 4-2 victory on Friday, and stellar offensive plays from multiple players on Saturday ended the Tommies' 2023-2024 season. 

The Badgers attacked fast Friday night at LaBahn Arena, scoring a goal in the first minute of the game. After a set-up pass from Casey O’Brien, Simms broke through the St. Thomas defense with a blast into the upper left corner of the net and put the Badgers up 1-0. 

Wisconsin’s second goal came midway through the second period when Laney Potter raced down the rink and ended her run with a clever back pass for Lacey Eden to tap into an open net. With this goal, Eden became the fourth Wisconsin player to hit 50 points this season, joining Simms, O’Brien and Britta Curl. Still, the Tommies made it a one-score game going into the third period. 

The third period opened with competitive play, but Simms increased the Badgers’ lead to 3-1 after redirecting Laila Edwards’ shot on frame. The Tommies again closed the gap to keep it a one-score game, but Curl eased nerves by scoring another goal with six minutes left in the game. The Badgers secured the 4-2 win, and Simms added two goals to put her at 29 for the entire season. 

Saturday was more one-sided than Friday, as six Badgers got on the scoreboard in a 9-1 win over St. Thomas. 

After opening with 11 shots on goal, Curl gave the Badgers the lead when she received a pass from Edwards and slotted the puck between the St. Thomas goalie. Curl’s goal was the lone score in the first period, but the Badger offense heated up in the second. 

Eden, O’Brien, Anna Wilgren and Vivian Jungels all scored in the second period to give Wisconsin a 5-0 lead. 

In the first minute of the third period, Curl’s first-time shot ended up in the back left corner of the net to open the scoring again. Curl later beat two defenders and tallied her second goal of the game, with Katie Kotlowski and O’Brien also scoring in the third period to close out the 9-1 win against St. Thomas. 

Nine Badgers also made All-Western Collegiate Hockey Association honors teams at the end of the regular season. Simms, O’Brien and Caroline Harvey made the All-WCHA first team, Curl and Eden were recognized on the All-WCHA second team, and Ava Murphy and Laney Potter made the rookie team. 

Another border battle showdown will take place next weekend against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, where the Badgers will play for a spot in the WCHA finals. 

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