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Badgers sweep Huskies, earn spot in WCHA Final Face-off

first_imgBrianna Decker (left) and Anne Dronen (right) were stellar for UW, who will advance in the playoffs.[/media-credit]They say it’s always difficult to end a team’s season, but on Saturday night, that’s exactly what the Wisconsin women’s hockey team did.With strong offensive production and a collective defensive effort, the Badgers disposed of St. Cloud State in the first round of the WCHA playoffs 5-1, completing the series sweep and sending the Huskies into the off-season abyss.Sophomore center Brianna Decker led the offense with three points, including a goal in the second period that put St. Cloud State away for good.“There was a big scrum going on, and all of a sudden she comes out with the puck, takes it hard to the net and then obviously puts on a great move and scores a big goal. And so that was a big momentum shift,” head coach Mark Johnson said.Meghan Duggan ignited the offense early in the first period when she slammed home a rebound created by another Decker scoring opportunity.Four minutes later on a Badger power play junior winger Hilary Knight found the back of the net with a slap shot from the high slot to make it a two-goal lead.Wisconsin would add three more goals by Decker, forward Carolyne Prevost and again by Knight on its way to the 5-1 victory, an offensive outburst that overshadowed an exceptional defensive effort.“As long as we’re playing defense, the offense is going to come,” Knight said. “I know coach said a big thing yesterday, ‘You can score many, but what counts is how many you keep out of the net.’”Freshman netminder Alex Rigsby stopped 16 of 17 shots from getting by, as she saw few shots from St. Cloud State due to her team’s defensive effort.It was important for the Badgers to come out and give a complete performance, because the night before they had a little more of a challenge.From the beginning of the season, the sentiment Johnson and his players echoed after every game is if they remain consistent, no team can stop them.Friday night, even though the final score of 9-3 may not have shown it, that consistency left the Badgers.After forty minutes of hockey, St. Cloud State – a team that had won just once all season – trailed No. 1 Wisconsin 4-3 heading into the final period.“These are challenging games from the standpoint that everybody looks at the standings, everybody talks about who you are playing and what should happen. But if you’ve been in this business long enough, you still have to drop the puck and play,” Johnson said.When the referee dropped the puck in the third period, Wisconsin tore out of the gates and exploded for five goals.Prevost scored twice, Duggan and Knight added their second goals of the game and Madison Packer also put one past Dixon.Before the third period barrage, however, St. Cloud State nipped at Wisconsin’s heels throughout.The Badgers jumped to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period with goals by Duggan and Knight, but the early lead quickly evaporated.“When you score in the first shift of the game, after 15 seconds, that could be good or bad,” Johnson said. “Obviously it’s great to score a goal and create some energy early on in the process, but we still have to work and the game’s not over.”After the quick start, St. Cloud State began to tie up the neutral zone and caught Wisconsin breaking out of the defensive zone early.The Huskies stormed back with two goals of their own to make it 2-2 until Decker recorded her first goal of the game before the period ended.In the second, Decker picked up where she left off and put another past Nixon to regain a two-goal advantage, but as the period wound down, St. Cloud State struck again, cutting the lead in half.“We didn’t come out and play Badger hockey from the get-go and that kind of hurt us. But fortunately, we have a great goaltender and we’ve got a lot of depth,” Knight said.The Badgers used that depth and strong goaltending play in the third period, rubbing out any chances for the upset with the five-goal third period and a 9-3 final score.Even though Wisconsin fought harder than it would have liked, the group still earned the series victory and will live to see another day.“We know that the next couple of games are going to be tough next weekend, and so right now we’re focusing on the first game,” Decker said.last_img read more