Women’s hockey: Badgers proving tough to stop down stretch

first_imgStopping the third-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team is proving to be difficult this time of the year.A 5-1 victory over visiting fifth-seeded Boston University Saturday sent the Badgers to the Frozen Four for the eighth time in the past 10 years.The Badgers are on a six-game winning streak, outscoring their competitors 27-4 in that span.After winning the WCHA Final Face-Off, Wisconsin earned the fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play host to the Terriers.With what could be considered a tough draw for the NCAA tournament, the Badgers just focused on playing their game.As Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson has preached all season long, the Badgers came out strong in the first period with the help of freshman Annie Pankowski.Pankowski caught Boston University on a line change and set the tone for the rest of the game with her breakaway score.“I’m proud of our team,” Johnson said. “They practiced hard all week and came out with a lot of energy and fed off the crowd, and we’re certainly happy with outcome.”Wisconsin has dominated their opponents both offensively and defensively since the beginning of the playoffs.“I think our team is at the point where we are clicking amazingly — every line,” senior Katarina Zgraja said.Despite their lead, the Badgers did not let up on the overmatched Terriers.“Not so much a statement victory so much as to show ourselves how far we have come since the beginning of the season,” Pankowski said. “We put a good foot forward and kept coming in waves, and we never tried to let the energy fall too low on the bench.“It was almost practice for us to know what it feels like in that intense game and bring it to another level.”The warm weather kept the ice slow, and the sell-out crowd maintained high energy.“I think one thing both teams had to deal with was when it is warm inside, the ice had trouble settling and the ice was slow,” Johnson said. “I noticed some of our players were a little uncomfortable with it, and certainly for [Boston University], I’m sure the same thing.”The game was not without adversity for the Badgers either. Defenseman Melissa Channell left the game with a bloody hand about midway through the first period, and senior Brittany Ammerman got a five-minute major penalty in the third period.The referees said Ammerman made contact with the opponent’s head and assessed a game misconduct. However, the misconduct penalty does not carry over and Ammerman will be able to play Friday against Minnesota.Wisconsin was already in control at that juncture, leading 4-0 when the ejection took place, which made Johnson’s decisions easier when finding players to fill in.With each of these Johnson had to switch the lines a bit to fill in for the lost players, but he said he believes everyone stepped up when necessary.“People get hurt. Everybody sees that, everybody understands it,” Johnson said. “When I call somebody up whether it’s for an injury or somebody going to the locker room, people have to step up and not miss a beat.”The Badgers have continued their beat with nothing slowing them down yet, dispatching eighth-ranked North Dakota, 10th ranked Bemidji State and now fifth-ranked Boston University.Wisconsin’s next challenge will be against top-seeded Minnesota in Minneapolis as part of the Frozen Four.This team is not going to back down from the challenge, though.The Badgers lost one game and tied the other when they traveled to Minnesota in early January. The confidence level of the team might be the biggest change right now and something that could be a boost moving forward.“I think what happened last time, there was a lot of excitement and nerves as well. Now going up there, we have this momentum behind us and we know how good we can play,” Pankowski said. “I don’t think being up in Minnesota will be that much of a disadvantage for us as long as we play our game.”Everyone on the team seems poised for potential revenge against Minnesota. Other players share the sentiment, as well.“I think we just need to keep playing how we are doing, and I think we will be just fine,” goalkeeper Ann-Renée Desbiens said.Ammerman is the only player on the team remaining from the last championship run in 2011, but the team is playing with confidence of having gone through this tournament for many years.“Our team dynamic is really cool right now. We’re kind of on the cloud, but we’re also very humble at the same time,” Zgraja said. “We’re not being freaked out about it. We are all focused on the same goal, and I think that is what is making us successful right now.”Correction: The original story stated that Wisconsin’s Brittany Ammerman will miss the next game because of her game misconduct penalty. However, under NCAA rules, Ammerman’s penalty applies to only Saturday’s game and does not affect her eligibility going forward in the National Semifinal game of the Frozen Four Friday against Minnesota.last_img

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