Special teams, goaltending carry Badgers to next round

first_imgNew season, new life.With the regular season behind it, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team hosted St. Cloud State at the Eagle’s Nest, sweeping them 9-3 and 5-1, respectively, and earning a spot in the WCHA Final Face-off next weekend.While the Huskies didn’t have the most ideal regular season – winning only one game – the No. 1 Badgers expected a tough fight, especially from a team that was given new life in the playoffs.“As I mentioned in a press conference on Monday, you get into the playoffs and you start a second season,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “Everybody’s at the starting gates irrelevant of how the season went… They’re here to win, so they came out and they’re going to play hard.”Special teams shineDespite being the underdog, SCSU gave UW a physical fight with a total of 22 penalties between the two squads.With 10 power play opportunities in the series, Wisconsin capitalized on four of them, including three Friday night with five opportunities.Fielding a stronger power play, the Badgers know how important special teams play is to winning games.“They’re huge,” Johnson said. “Obviously special teams at this time of the year are crucial as you get farther along in the games. If you are going to be successful, you need your penalty kill unit working hard and your power-play unit scoring goals. That is going to help you win games.”“Extremely important,” junior forward Hilary Knight added. “We want to capitalize on every opportunity. There was a bunch of penalties called here tonight. We got a couple bounces that went our way and others that [SCSU goaltender Ashley] Nixon made a great save on.”Not only did UW have a fairly successful power play – especially Friday night – the squad was also solid on the penalty kill, allowing only one power play goal through eight chances for SCSU on the weekend.Fighting to stay alive, the Huskies started to get very physical in the third period of Saturday night’s game, sitting in the penalty box three times, while the Badgers couldn’t seem to stay disciplined with five different players in the box in a 10-minute span.“You can’t control what the refs are doing,” said sophomore forward Brianna Decker. “We had to PK a lot, especially in the third period. We thought the last two minutes was probably the longest two minutes of our lives, just sitting there on the bench, waiting for the game to end. We just had to stay on them, not give them time or space.”Rigsby eases into playoffsHeading into the third period Friday night, St. Cloud State kept things close at 4-3, just one goal behind Wisconsin.Freshman goaltender Alex Rigsby didn’t let the Huskies score another goal until there were six and a half minutes left in Saturday night’s game.In her first playoff experience, Rigsby stayed relatively solid for the Badgers. But after letting in three goals and allowing the Huskies to stay in Friday night’s game entering the third period, it seemed like her nerves may have been catching up to her.“[Rigsby’s a] young kid,” Johnson said. “It’s a rink that there’s not a lot of space behind the net. If the puck gets there, it doesn’t take much to get it out in front of the net. Pucks seemed to be bouncing the whole game. Again for her, it’s her first playoff game and it’s a learning opportunity for her.”There seemed to be a distinct difference in Rigsby’s play Saturday. She made 16 total saves that prevented the Huskies from getting any sort of momentum going.Friday night, Wisconsin outshot St. Cloud by only eight shots – one of the closest margins the squad has seen all season. But facing a total of 34 shots, Rigsby held strong, saving 30 of them.“[Friday] night, we really let our guard down and let people break in into the inside of the ice and that wasn’t her fault,” Knight said. “She’s a great player, every game growing and evolving into – hopefully – Jessie [Vetter] or whomever the top goaltender is.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *