September 16

Defense boosts Badgers Sunday

first_imgAfter being held scoreless for 10 consecutive periods – including all three in Friday night’s 1-0 loss to Bemidji State – the Wisconsin women’s hockey team turned its play around with three goals in Sunday’s 3-3 tie.While senior forward and captain Brianna Decker finally snapped the streak in the second period Sunday, it was the Badger defense’s work that kept the team alive.Defensemen Courtney Burke and Jordan Brickner each contributed a goal Sunday, allowing Wisconsin (3-3-2, 1-3-2 WCHA) to take the lead over the Beavers (2-3-1, 1-2-1-0) on each score.“Our forwards have been having chances but haven’t been able to put them in,” Decker said. “But to have our D step up and get a couple goals, that is huge. It’s not often that the defense scores, so to have two of them score today is awesome.”Wisconsin certainly was not at a loss for scoring opportunities in either game, as the Badgers recorded 72 shots this weekend. With 45 shots on goal Sunday in comparison to Bemidji State’s 21, the Badgers dominated play throughout the game.Friday night was a different story for Wisconsin in terms of scoring. The team opened play at LaBahn Arena for the first time with a tough 1-0 loss. Despite attempting 75 shots, 27 of them on net, UW left the game scoreless and frustrated with its lack of ability to finish scoring opportunities.Decker said although she and her teammates wished they could have converted one of their countless chances, she knew her team had played a quality game.“Overall I think we played a good game; I think we outplayed them,” Decker said Friday. “Shots were pretty even, but I think our opportunities were overall a little bit more quality.”The frustration continued until Decker’s backhanded shot into the back of the net in the second period Sunday, tying up the game 1-1. From then on, Wisconsin appeared more energetic and greedy for more scores.Entering the third period with the score tied, head coach Mark Johnson told his team it had one period to go out and win the hockey game. The pressure and frustration with not scoring was clearly in the past for Wisconsin, as it came out on the prowl and put up 19 shots alone in the third period and kept the puck out of its defensive third for most of the period.“It’s a situation where the game is tied and you can go out and win a hockey game and we looked like we were in a good position to do it,” Johnson said. “And then a couple of penalties hurt us.”Beavers capitalize on power playsBemidji State did not give up without a fight Sunday, but six penalties against the Badgers also worked in their favor.Three of the penalties alone came in the third period, erasing all the momentum the team had built up from Decker and Burke’s goals. Bemidji State capitalized on a power play with five minutes and 28 seconds left to play in regulation and just 32 seconds later found itself on another power play.“It hurts the whole flow of the game; we had great momentum. You take one [penalty] here or there and you have a pretty good chance of killing it off,” Johnson said. “But with multiple [penalties] and especially when you give an extended five versus three, that makes it that much more challenging.”While giving up that power play goal, the Badger defense found great success on the penalty kill during their home-opening weekend. The defensive unit, backed by goaltender Alex Rigsby, managed to kill five of six penalties Sunday, including a two-man advantage for Bemidji State late in the third period.Friday night, UW also managed to not give up a goal on Bemidji State’s two power play opportunities.The veteran defensive group, with seven returning skaters, has been the backbone for Wisconsin through the start of this season. In the first eight games, the Badgers have given up just three goals on 27 penalty kills.Even on the penalty kill, Wisconsin’s defense found success with Brickner’s short-handed goal to give UW the 3-2 lead with less than five minutes remaining. The defense took a combined 10 shots in Sunday’s game, providing support to a young offensive unit that holds eight underclassmen, five of whom are freshmen.For Brickner, the backline’s ability to kill more than 10 minutes of game time a man down is something her team should be proud of.“Killing them off is good and it gives us, and the team, a boost of confidence,” Brickner said. “We are looking pretty good defensively I think.”However, for Johnson there is always room for improvement, and Sunday’s performance in the back was not worthy of praise. The three goals UW surrendered Sunday is the most it has given up in a single game so far this season.“It was a good third period, energy was high and we were in the offensive zone quite a bit,” Johnson said. “The end result is we gave up a late goal for them to tie, which is the disappointing part of the whole thing.”Though taking the game to overtime and coming away with a tie, UW earned an extra point by winning the shootout. Looking ahead, Johnson said he remained optimistic, seeing progress in his team after each game. The ability to battle back, both from a one-goal deficit Sunday and from the three-game scoreless streak, showed him this team is making the right strides forward.“The overall commitment by the players has been good, so from a coach’s standpoint we are happy with it,” Johnson said. “If we continue to grow that is all we can ask the kids to do.”Follow Caroline on Twitterlast_img read more