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While losing in the national championship game usually ends the season on a bitter note, the Wisconsin women's hockey team had one of its strongest seasons to date.
The Badgers posted a 23-3-2-1 record in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, claiming their fourth conference title in program history.
After nearly duplicating last year's success in the WCHA regular season, Wisconsin advanced to the 2012 national collegiate title game, but fell to Minnesota by a score of 4-2.
The Badgers and Gophers scored a combined five goals in the first period to open the game. Wisconsin was on the short end of the opening frame and started the second period with a 3-2 deficit. Both team's defenses buckled-down in the second as neither team could find the back of the net. In the third period the Badgers out-shot the Gophers 20-9. However, Minnesota would be the one to tally a goal, as the Gophers went on to win.
The day before the national championship game, junior forward Brianna Decker was named the recipient of the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given annually to the best player in women's hockey. Decker was also named the WCHA's Player of the Year and earned first-team All-America honors after leading the nation with 37 goals.
Senior Hilary Knight capped off a remarkable career at UW, setting nearly every offensive record in program history. She owns eight separate career records in: points (262), goals (161), game-winning goals (30), power-play goals (37), short-handed goals (8), shots (986), plus/minus (+167) and hat tricks (9).
Sophomore netminder Alex Rigsby also had a fantastic season. Playing in all 40 games, Rigsby broke the school record for most saves in a season, stopping 1044 of 1100 shots on net. Her 1,044 saves was the most made by a single netminder in the nation during the season. Her .949 save percentage was second-best in the nation and ranked third all-time at UW for highest single-season save percentage.
As a team the Badgers had the best penalty-kill unit and fourth-best power play in the nation.
Wisconsin also lead the nation in attendance, averaging 1,856 fans per game in 40 games and boasted the best home attendance in the nation with 2,689 fans per game.
How do you quantify momentum? Especially in a program that wins so much?
UW women's hockey coach Mark Johnson has rarely been forced to go down this path where the momentum of his team has come into question.
"Momentum comes in different areas,'' Johnson reasoned. "Obviously if you win a big game and there are some dramatics within that game -- if you happen to win in overtime -- it's going to carry some energy over to your next practice or game.
"If you beat a real high-quality opponent, I think it can do the same thing. That's what is so fun about the postseason. Unlike regular-season games, the playoff games are all big. Certainly, the momentum of the season and playoffs can carry into the NCAA games.''
But what if the opposite is true? The Badgers lost their final game of the regular season to Ohio State, and they also lost to Minnesota Duluth in the WCHA Final Face-Off. Do they have momentum going into Saturday's NCAA quarterfinal matchup against Mercyhurst?
"I think we're in a good spot, whether you define it as momentum or not,'' Johnson said. "As I was telling our staff this week, if we were sitting in the locker room in September and we were saying, 'We're going to be the No. 1 seed,' we would have taken it.
"We're in a good position. We're pretty healthy and we're where we need to be. Like any sport, it's now going to come down to execution. At the end of the day, you don't want to have any regrets. Championship teams don't make any excuses.''
Losing two of their last four games has been a breaking news story in women's college hockey, particularly since the Badgers lost only twice in their first 34 games. A Johnson-coached team hasn't lost consecutive games in five years.
Consider: after losing 3-2 to Minnesota on Oct. 16, the Badgers bounced back with a 4-3 win over Duluth; after losing 1-0 to the Gophers on Jan. 7, they crushed North Dakota 8-2; after losing 4-2 to Ohio State on Feb. 18, they overwhelmed Minnesota State 7-0.
"We've done a lot of good things,'' Johnson said modestly.
Does he still believe that you can learn more about yourself after a loss than a win even though his teams have so little experience with losing?
"Absolutely,'' he said. "You ask yourself, 'What do we need to do to make sure we don't feel this way after our next game?'''
What about the leadership in his locker room? How have some of his better players handled going 2-2 over their last four games? "Anytime you lose it's a tough pill to swallow,'' he said. "We haven't been there very often (as a program). But you deal with it.''
To this end, Johnson has been encouraged by their reaction to the recent setbacks. "They're saying the right things,'' he said. "They're coming to practice and doing the right things. You never want to lose but if you can become better, it's a good path to go down.''
It's just that so few people around here are conditioned to this conversation.
"When we lost a (NCAA) quarterfinal game in '05 to Dartmouth,'' Johnson said, "it was one of those things where we talked afterward and planted a seed for the following year. That learning experience helped us win in '06.
"That's how I look at our playoff system. It's a good two week learning opportunity, whether you've been successful or not. If you get to see another day - which we do - you need to take some things from the loss and move on. That's how I look at momentum.''
Never let them see you sweat, either.
"It comes down to habits and what we do on a daily basis,'' said Johnson, whose calm and collected demeanor sets the tone for his team. "It's the way you go about business. You learn from what the previous game showed you.
"If you're consistent in what you do and your approach, the players understand that and they get to the point where they don't like losing either. They'll come back more focused on paying attention to detail and playing with a little more hunger.''
That's what he's counting on against Mercyhurst.
"Executing and playing with energy is crucial right now,'' he stressed. "We've shown all year that we've been competitive and consistent and we've won a lot.
"Our preparation will give us our best chance to win knowing if we're not successful, it's the end of the road.''
Three of the four series this past weekend resulted in sweeps as North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin all claimed two wins. Bemidji State was upset in overtime against Minnesota State, but the Beavers salvaged the weekend split. A couple players were missing as Team Canada called-up its team in order to prepare for the Four Nations Cup taking place in Sweden this weekend. Because of the international tournament, seven of the eight teams in the WCHA will remain idle this weekend. The only item on the docket is Bemidji State playing one game against Lindenwood on Thursday.
No. 7 North Dakota at St. Cloud State
No surprises in this series as the Sioux skated to two fairly easy victories. I expected St. Cloud State to net a couple of goals and they did just that, they even had a 1-1 game going for the majority of the first period on Friday. After UND scored to take a 1-0 lead, the Huskies answered back within 21 seconds to tie the game up. Unfortunately for St. Cloud State they wouldn't get any closer than that for the rest of the weekend. UND would win by scores of 6-2 and 5-1.
North Dakota notes: The line of Monique Lamoureux-Kolls, Jocelyne Lamoureux and Michelle Karvinen had another great weekend together. They accounted for five of the six goals on Friday, but only one of five on Saturday. Monique Weber and Allison Parizek were the only other two UND players to record multiple point games on the weekend. A total of seven players in addition to Lamoureux-Kolls, Lamouruex and Karivine tallied points for UND on the weekend as the Sioux are starting to show some depth in their lines. Stephanie Ney played in net on Friday making 22 stops, while Jorid Dagfinrud made her second start of the season on Saturday and made 19 saves.
St. Cloud State notes: Abby Ness, Molli Mott and Brittany Toor combined for two goals on the weekend, with Mott scoring Saturday's lone goal and Ness scoring the second SCSU goal on Friday. Tayler VanDenakker played both games in net for the Huskies and made a total of 65 saves in the 120 minutes of action.
No. 3 Minnesota at No. 4 Minnesota Duluth
I expected a close series between the two teams and after Minnesota took the first game, Minnesota Duluth nearly forced a split on Saturday. UMD jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Friday, but three-straight Minnesota goals would doom the Bulldogs as the Gophers scored an empty netter just seven seconds after UMD opted for an extra attacker to clinch a 4-1 win. Saturday saw Minnesota jump out to a 1-0 lead within the first minute and that would hurt the Bulldogs. A late rally by UMD fell short and the Gophers finished the sweep by a score of 3-2.
Minnesota notes: Amanda Kessel and Jen Schoullis had strong weekends for the Gophers. Kessel assisted on both game-winning goals, while Schoullis scored three of the seven goals on the weekend. Minnesota received offensive support from the blue line on Friday as both Anne Schleper and Megan Bozek had two assists, while Bozek also scored a goal. Goaltender Noora Räty posted her third sweep over a WCHA team this season, making 42 saves on 45 shots for a .933 save percentage.
Minnesota Duluth notes: The Bulldogs top three scorers, Audrey Cournoyer, Katherine Wilson and Jessica Wong were held to a combined one point on the weekend as Wong tallied one assist. Senior Haley Irwin was not in attendance for the series as Team Canada called-up its players to prepare for the Four Nations Cup. Top newcomer Jenna McParland was also kept off the score sheet in both games. Jenny Harss had a solid weekend in net, but the Gophers proved to be too tough and her 66 saves weren't enough for a Bulldog win.
No. 10 Bemidji State at Minnesota State
I knew Minnesota State would play Bemidji State well, but I wasn't expecting anything less than a sweep for Bemidji State. In their first-ever game with a national ranking, the Beavers faltered and dropped a decision in overtime to the Mavericks. Minnesota State out-shot Bemidji State, 31-21, in the upset and scored with 17 seconds remaining in overtime to pick up their fifth win of the season. Rebounding on Saturday, Bemidji State shut out the Mavericks, but the scoring woes continued as the Beavers only managed a 1-0 win.
Bemidji State notes: The Beavers were missing one of their top forwards in Emily Erickson due to an injury. Even with that in mind, Bemidji State lacked any scoring from their other top goal producers in Sadie Lundquist and Montana Vichorek. Mackenzie Thurston was the only BSU player to record multiple points on the weekend. While the scoring may have struggled, goaltending was not a problem as Zuzana Tomcikova made 52 saves on the weekend with a .963 save percentage.
Minnesota State notes: Ariel Mackley scored the OT-goal, while Kari Lundberg scored the first goal of the game on Friday. Alli Altmann played in net on Friday and recorded 20 saves for her fourth win of the season. Danielle Butters played in goal on Saturday and made a season-high 31 saves in the 1-0 loss.
No. 1 Wisconsin at Ohio State
The Buckeyes always seem to play the Badgers well at the OSU Ice Rink and this past weekend was no exception. While the Badgers did walk away with the weekend sweep, it was no cake walk. A combination of a high-pressure forecheck and the small ice surface seemed to bottle-neck Wisconsin at times. After UW opened the scoring on Friday night, OSU responded to make it 1-1. However that would be the last goal for the Buckeyes all weekend as the Badgers netted four consecutive goals to close out the weekend with 3-1 and 2-0 scores. Ohio State out-shot Wisconsin on Saturday, behind a third period rush of 16 shots on goal, but the Badgers remained unfazed and picked up their second win while being out-shot this season.
Wisconsin notes: Alex Rigsby was the Badgers' best player over the weekend as she shut down the Ohio State power play, killing off all eight OSU man advantages. Rigsby made 55 saves on 56 shots to post the best goaltending stats in the conference over the weekend. Newcomers Blayre Turnbull and Karley Sylvester both recorded goals on Friday, while Hilary Knight tallied the game-winner. On Saturday, Brooke Ammerman scored both goals in the 2-0 win.
Ohio State notes: Kayla Sullivan scored the lone goal on the weekend with Taylor Kuehl and Danielle Gagne recording the assists. Lisa Steffes made her third consecutive start and made 29 saves in the 3-1 loss on Friday. Chelsea Knapp made her first appearance in between the pipes since the North Dakota series on Dec. 21-22. Knapp played well and recorded 24 saves.
Possible WCHA Player of the Week winners (in order of likeliness):
This week's potential Offensive Player of the Week may be a bit of a tossup. Both Amanda Kessel and Jocelyne Lamoureux had great weekends as Minnesota and North Dakota swept their WCHA opponents. Kessel's performance stands out a bit more as she tallied assists on both game-winning goals against Minnesota Duluth. Lamoureux put up one more point than Kessel, though it was against a weaker St. Cloud State team. Brooke Ammerman also had a decent weekend, with a hand in both game-winning goals against Ohio State.
For Defensive Player of the Week it's hard to look past Alex Rigsby's performance at Ohio State, a total of 55 stops on 56 shots in a sweep over the Buckeyes. Minnesota's goaltender Noora Räty did well in net for the Gophers against Minnesota Duluth, making 42 saves on 45 shots. North Dakota's Candace Molle assisted on a game-winner against St. Cloud State. Bemidji State's goaltender Zuzana Tomcikvoa had another great performance in net for the Beavers, but Bemidji State being unable to pull off the sweep will hurt her chances.
Rookie of the Week looks to be going back to UND's Michelle Karvinen who led the Sioux in scoring against the Huskies. In a five-point night, she netted the game-winner on Friday. Wisconsin's Blayre Turnbull scored a shorthanded goal against the Buckeyes as the Badgers swept in Ohio. None of the newcomers at Minnesota put up any numbers this weekend. UMD's Brigette Lacquette had two points, but being swept by the Gophers may hurt her chances.
Offensive Player of the Week
Amanda Kessel (UM) - 5 points (1G, 4A), 2 game-winning assists vs UMD, 10 shots, +4 plus/minus
Jocelyne Lamoureux (UND) - 6 points (2G, 4A), two wins vs SCSU, seven shots, +4 plus/minus
Brooke Ammerman (UW) - 3 points (2G, 1A), 1 game-winning goal and assist vs OSU, 8 shots, +2 plus/minus
Defensive Player of the Week
Alex Rigsby (UW) - 55 saves, 1 goal against, .982 save percentage, 2 wins vs OSU, 1 shutout
Noora Räty (UM) - 42 saves, 3 goals against, .933 save percentage, 2 wins vs UMD
Candace Molle (UND) - 2 points (1G, 1A), 1 game-winning assist, 2 wins vs SCSU, 4 shots, +3 plus/minus
Zuzana Tomcikova (BSU) - 52 saves, 2 goals against, .963 save percentage, 1 win vs MSU, 1 shutout
Rookie of the Week
Michelle Karvinen (UND) - 6 points (2G, 4A), 1 game-winning goal, 2 wins vs SCSU, 7 shots, +4 plus/minus
Blayre Turnbull (UW) - 1 point (1G, 0A), 1 short-handed goal, 2 wins vs OSU, 2 shots, +1 plus/minus
Brigette Lacquette (UMD) - 2 points (1G, 1A), 4 shots, even plus/minus
Lindenwood vs Bemidji State (at Eveleth, Minn., Nov. 10)
This will be a single-game match up instead of a normal two-game series and it will be played in Eveleth, Minn., at the Hippodrome. Even with this game being away from the comfy confines of the Sanford Center, the Beavers should skate to an easy victory. Excluding a close 4-3 loss to Minnesota State, Lindenwood has lost to DI opponents this season by a combined score of 85-9. The struggling team from St. Charles, Mo., will surely get better, but I don't see them beating any of their DI opponents this season.
Minnesota State at No. 7 North Dakota (Nov. 18-19)
The Sioux finally return to Ralph Engelstad Arena after almost a month without a home game. North Dakota has put up some blistering numbers on the scoreboard while at home and the series against Minnesota State may be another opportunity for the Sioux to keep on lighting lamp. The Minnesota State goaltending corps is playing well now, but it may be a different story in two weeks. North Dakota should come away with both wins.
Bemidji State at No. 6 Minnesota Duluth (Nov. 19-20)
The Bulldogs are 1-4-1-1 to start off conference action, and I'm not entirely sure, but this could be one of their worst starts in the WCHA. It's not a reflection of the quality of the UMD squad by any means, as the four losses have come against Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, returning home and gaining Haley Irwin back from the Four Nations Cup, Minnesota Duluth will be a very difficult team to beat. If Bemidji State has forward Emily Erickson back from her injury and if the Beavers can play a full 60 minutes of hockey, then they may be able to pull out a win. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Minnesota Duluth improve to 3-4-1-1 with these games being in Duluth, Minn.
Ohio State at Syracuse (Nov. 18-19)
Syracuse had a great season last year, losing to CHA powerhouse Mercyhurst by one goal in the CHA tournament championship game. However, Syracuse looks a lot weaker this year. Ohio State will have forward Natalie Spooner back and the Buckeyes will be looking to reheat their cold offense they've had lately. The Buckeyes should sweep this series and potentially in high scoring fashion.
St. Cloud State at Niagara (Nov. 18-19)
If these games were in St. Cloud, Minn., I would call for a Husky sweep. However, having to travel all the way to upstate New York may hinder St. Cloud State. This is the last nonconference series for the Huskies and it may be the last chance for them to get a sweep. With this in mind, the games should be fairly close, one or two-goal games. I think the Huskies win at least one, and if they stay focused, they can win both.
New Hampshire at No. 3 Minnesota (Nov. 18-19)
This will be a weekend sweep for the Gophers at home. There's a good possibility that Noora Räty and the Minnesota defense will not allow a single goal on the weekend.
No. 1 Wisconsin at Rensselaer (Nov. 18-19)
The series will serve as the third and fourth meetings between the two teams and the first visit for Wisconsin to Rensselaer. The Badgers will have Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and Stefanie McKeough back from Four Nations. The Engineers have been struggling this year and for the Badgers to win all they need to do is to continue to play their style of hockey. The biggest challenge for Wisconsin will be staying away from complacency as it heads into the weekend series and not look past RPI.
Out of three conference series this past weekend, only one resulted in a sweep and it wasn't the No.2 Minnesota Golden Gophers at Bemidji State. Ohio State got the weekend sweep over Minnesota State in two very close defensive games. Minnesota Duluth routed North Dakota, 6-1, before the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie on Sunday. Minnesota took the first game in Bemidji, 4-1, but the Beavers rebounded to claim a big upset over the Gophers on Saturday. In nonconference action, St. Cloud State tied and lost to Robert Morris, while Wisconsin breezed past an injury-riddled Boston University in Madison, Wis.
Robert Morris at St. Cloud State
The Huskies saw a promising start to the weekend, as they battled back from a 2-1 deficit to tie the game in the third period. A penalty at the end of regulation gave Robert Morris a two-minute man advantage to start overtime and while that hurt the Huskies, they withstood the pressure and forced the tie. They went on to win a shootout, 2-0, but it was just for bragging rights. In Saturday's game, St. Cloud State out-shot the Colonials, but fell by a score of 3-1.
St. Cloud State players of note: The goaltending duo was solid over the weekend, their numbers may not have been absolutely stellar, but they were definitely good enough to give the Huskies a chance to win. Talyer VanDenakker played in the 2-2 tie on Friday making 25 stops, including four in OT. Julie Friend played on Saturday and made 21 saves in the 3-1 loss. Abby Ness tallied two helpers on the weekend as she was the only Husky to record more than one point, she also scored on her attempt in the shootout on Friday.
No. 4 Boston University at No. 1 Wisconsin
The Terriers entered Madison for the first time in program history, but Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenelle Kohanchuk didn't make the trip as they were out with injuries. Boston University still had last year's top scorer in Jenn Wakefield and sophomore goaltender Kerrin Sperry who helped the Terriers reach the Frozen Four final as a freshman. However, the Kohl Center is a difficult venue for visiting teams. The Badgers played nearly 120 minutes of solid hockey and swept the Terriers by scores of 3-0 and 6-1.
Wisconsin players of note: With a knack for showing up on the score sheet, Brianna Decker's name appeared on it both nights, punctuated by a hat trick on Saturday. With her five points on the weekend, she now has 50 points in the past 20 games. Both Brittany Ammerman and Blayre Turnbull recorded two-goal games over the weekend. Alex Rigsby made a total of 42 stops and picked up her first shutout of the season on Friday.
Ohio State at Minnesota State
This series was an even bigger defensive battle than the St. Cloud State-Robert Morris series. Only four goals were scored and nine penalties were called all weekend. It looked like the weekend was going to be another rough one for the Ohio State goaltending after an early MSU goal in the first period on Friday. However, Minnesota State's first goal of the weekend would also be their last, as OSU would go on to win 2-1 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday. Both teams had great goaltending, but struggled offensively to get quality chances on net.
Minnesota State players of note: Lauren Smith opened the scoring for the Mavericks on their first power play on Friday for the lone MSU goal of the weekend. Alli Altmann had a great night in net making 28 saves, including 14 in the second period, in Friday's 2-1 loss. The following game saw the Mavericks opt for sophomore Danielle Butters in net and she rose to the occasion making 31 saves in the 1-0 loss on Saturday.
Ohio State players of note: After letting in the early goal, sophomore goaltender Lisa Steffes kept the Mavericks scoreless for the remaining 116 minutes of the weekend, making 44 saves for the two wins. Ohio State needed the solid goaltending as its offense has been in bit of a slump lately. After scoring 19 goals in their first four games, the Buckeyes have only scored five goals in their last four. Hokey Langan, Laura McIntosh and Kelly Wild all had two points over the weekend, while Natalie Spooner was left without a single point after eight attempts on net.
No. 6 North Dakota at No. 7 Minnesota Duluth
After getting swept by the Badgers at home, the Bulldogs wanted to make sure they didn't start off the conference season with a 0-4-0 record. Coming off an 18-goal weekend, North Dakota was looking to keep their offense rolling. However, it was the Minnesota Duluth offense that would trump UND in the first game on Saturday. The first period was scoreless, but UMD would score three goals in the second, including a shorthander, and two more to start the third to take a 5-0 lead en route to a 6-1 win. The following game saw a closer defensive game as the two sides played to a 2-2 draw. UND needed an extra-attacker goal in the final minute to force the tie, though the Bulldogs would claim the shootout victory. In the history of WCHA shootouts, North Dakota has yet to win one.
Minnesota Duluth players of note: Katherine Wilson scored a hat trick on Saturday in the 6-1 victory and only tallied one assist in the 2-2 tie. Audrey Cournoyer helped on each of Wilson's goals on Saturday and recorded her own goal along with an additional assist on Sunday. Jenna McParland, Haley Irwin and Pernilla Winberg each had a goal on Saturday. Goaltender Jenny Harss made 56 of 59 saves on the weekend, including three stops in the shootout.
North Dakota players of note: Only four players recorded points for UND all weekend. Monique Lamoureux-Kolls assisted on all three UND goals. Jocelyne Lamoureux scored the lone goal on Saturday and assisted on both in Sunday's game. Michelle Karvinen scored the tying goal with 17 seconds left in the third period on Sunday and Josefine Jakobsen scored the first goal in the same game. Stephanie Ney made a total of 58 saves on 66 shots over the weekend.
No. 2 Minnesota at Bemidji State
In the Minnesota Daily, head coach Brad Frost said that Bemidji State is "probably the hardest working team" in the conference. Bemidji State proved Frost right when they rebounded from a 4-1 loss on Friday and upset the No. 2 Golden Gophers on Saturday night by a score of 2-1. The Gophers took a total of 92 shots on goal over the weekend and only scored five times. In addition to those 92 shots on goal, the Gophers took another 46 shots that never found their way on net, being blocked by the BSU defense. Since moving into the Sanford Center in Bemidji, the Beavers have only been swept once on home ice. The lone sweep came at the hands of No. 1 Wisconsin last year and even then it took overtime in the finale for the Badgers to pull off the sweep. With the split against Minnesota, the Beavers own a 6-6-2 record against nationally-ranked teams at the Sanford Center.
Minnesota players of note: Jen Schoullis scored an empty netter on Friday to record a hat trick. Amanda Kessel assisted on all four goals and Megan Bozek assisted on three in Friday's, 4-1, win. Sarah Erickson had the remaining point from the win, scoring the Gophers third goal of the game. On Saturday, Emily West scored the lone goal in the 2-1 loss. Noora Räty made 48 saves in the two games.
Bemidji State's players of note: Goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova made 87 saves on the weekend, including 18 in the third period of Saturday's, 2-1, win. She helped kill off three BSU penalties as the Gophers were scoreless on the power play for the weekend. Sadie Lundquist scored in both games, including the game-winner on Saturday. Emily Erickson assisted on both her goals. Freshman Rachael Kelly scored her fourth goal of the season to put the Beavers on the board first on Saturday.
Possible WCHA Player of the Week winners:
Unlike last week, the offensive player and rookie of the week will be a bit hard to predict. With 87 saves and an upset win against the Gophers, there's no question that Bemidji State's goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova deserves the honor for Defensive Player of the Week. If for some reason she wouldn't win, Alex Rigsby had the next best performance with two wins and a shutout against a top-5 team.
On offense, there were three hat tricks over the weekend, but only Katherine Wilson and Brianna Decker recorded points in both nights, while Decker had one more point and two wins. Audrey Cournoyer was the only player, other than Decker, to get five points on the weekend, but four of those points came from assists. BSU's Sadie Lunquist has a chance with a goal in each game against Minnesota, including the game-winner in Saturday's upset.
For rookies, no one recorded points in more than one game. UW's Blayre Turnbull had two goals and UMD's Jenna McParland had one goal and one assist. Both of those players recorded their points in 6-1 wins. Rachael Kelly scored a goal against Minnesota in Bemidji State's upset win.
Offensive Player of the Week (in order of likeliness)
Brianna Decker (UW) - 5 points (3G, 2A), hat trick, 11 shots, +3 plus/minus
Katherine Wilson (UMD) - 4 points (3G, 1A), hat trick, 10 shots, +3 plus/minus
Audrey Cournoyer (UMD) - 5 points (1G, 4A), 3 shots, +1 plus/minus
Sadie Lundquist (BSU) - 2 points (2G, 0A), 1 game-winning goal, 6 shots, -3 plus/minus
Defensive Player of the Week (in order of likeliness)
Zuzana Tomcikova (BSU) - 87 saves, 4 goals against, .946 save percentage, 1 win
Alex Rigsby (UW) - 42 saves, 1 goal against, .977 save percentage, 2 wins
Rookie of the Week (in order of likeliness)
Blayre Turnbull (UW) - 2 points (2G, 0A), 1 game-winning goal, 4 shots, +3 plus/minus
Jenna McParland (UMD) - 2 points (1G, 1A), 1 game-winning goal, 2 shots, +2 plus/minus
Rachael Kelly (BSU) - 1 point (1G, 0A), 5 shots, -1 plus/minus
No. 7 North Dakota at St. Cloud State
The wide ice sheet at the National Hockey Center should play to the advantage of North Dakota's Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux-Kolls. UND should leave St. Cloud, Minn., with two wins, but not without conceding a goal or two to the Huskies.
No. 4 Minnesota Duluth at No. 3 Minnesota
The Bulldogs are only 1-2-1-1 in their first four conference games and they'll be looking to improve that this weekend. The Gophers have shown that they can be shutdown, it's just up to the UMD defense and goaltender Jenny Harss to make it happen. In similar fashion to the Minnesota-Wisconsin matchup earlier this season, I think both games will be very close and after everything is said and done, the Bulldogs and Gophers will split the weekend.
No. 10 Bemidji State at Minnesota State
With their first-ever national ranking to their name, the Bemidji State Beavers hit the road to take on the Minnesota State Mavericks. I think Bemidji State has the edge on this one and should pull out a weekend sweep against the struggling MSU offense. However, if the Minnesota State goaltending plays like it did last weekend, the games could be a bit closer than BSU would like them to be.
No. 1 Wisconsin at Ohio State
After completing an arduous eight-game stretch the Badgers can claim a 7-1-0 record against some of the toughest competition in the nation. However, Wisconsin can't take time to relax as they travel to Ohio State this weekend and face a Buckeye team looking to return to its scoring ways. The problem with carrying the No. 1 title is that it tends to bring out the best performances in opponents. Even though the Buckeyes haven't scored many goals as they would have liked to recently, the forwards of Laura McIntosh, Natalie Spooner, Hokey Langan and Ally Tarr are always dangerous and can't be overlooked. The Badgers will need to continue playing solid on defense and should look to get a lot of shots on whoever is in net for the Buckeyes.
Wednesday was a great day for hockey. It was also a great day to recognize former Wisconsin men's coach Jeff Sauer and current UW women's coach Mark Johnson for their impact on the sport.
Sauer and Johnson were among four recipients of the 2011 Lester Patrick Award that honors special individuals for their contributions to hockey in the United States.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand for the event at the River Centre in St. Paul, Minn., where Bob Pulford and Tony Rossi joined Sauer and Johnson as Patrick Award honorees.
Johnson said that after he received a phone call from Bettman notifying him that he was a winner, "You step back and say, 'Wow!' It puts a smile on your face.''
Sauer got the same phone call and said, "I looked at my phone and saw it was a call from Gary Bettman and I thought it was someone playing a trick on me.''
It was no joke. Sauer and Johnson were most deserving. Plus, it was most timely that they were honored in the same class given that their history together dates back to when Jeff babysat for Mark.
Badger Bob Johnson -- Mark's dad -- was a common denominator. Keeping it all in the family, Jeff Sauer was a former Bob Johnson assistant and Mark Johnson was a former Jeff Sauer assistant.
There have been numerous intersections on their career timelines.
Before the UW Athletic Board could get around to confirming his appointment as the new hockey coach, it had to clean its desk of some old business and tend to other bureaucratic matters.
Colorado College's 39-year-old coach, Jeff Sauer, was told to take a seat and wait.
Not a problem. The job was his. And since the former Badger assistant had waited a long time for this day -- July 8, 1982 -- he was prepared to wait a little longer, however long it would take.
It took nearly two hours.
Sauer wound up in the UW basketball office, where he visited with an assistant coach who was helping hold the program together in the midst of a transition from Bill Cofield to Steve Yoder.
Neither Sauer nor Bo Ryan had any inkling what the future would hold for their respective careers. (Or that their paths would cross again in 2001 when Ryan moved from Platteville to Madtown.)
Shortly after the athletic board gave its official blessing to Sauer, a press conference was held at Camp Randall Stadium to formally introduce Bob Johnson's successor to the Madison media.
Sauer not only skated for Johnson at Colorado College, but he was a volunteer assistant under Johnson while completing his degree. Later, he was Johnson's first full-time assistant at Wisconsin.
He and his wife Jamie even babysat for the Johnson boys, Peter and Mark.
But he wanted to make it perfectly clear, "I'm not Bob Johnson, I'm Jeff Sauer. And I hope everyone realizes that we're going to do some things a little bit differently.
"Once you get to know me, I think you'll get to find that emotionally -- as far as wins and losses -- I try not to peak and valley. You have to keep your sanity somehow in this game.''
Sauer managed to do so longer than anyone -- for 31 years as a head coach in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association; 11 at Colorado College and 20 at Wisconsin.
Sauer won 655 games overall, including two national championships with the Badgers.
That Sauer was able to escape the long shadow of Bob Johnson and establish his own identity, separate from that of his lionized predecessor, speaks volumes for his system and perseverance.
"When I was a young coach in the league, I'd sit in those meetings and listen to everything the older coaches had to say,'' Sauer said after his 556th win moved him past the legendary John MacInnes.
"I don't know if I ever talked to any of them about coaching. You just didn't discuss those things back then. It's not like calling Sertie (Mike Sertich) on a Monday morning and talking about the series.''
Sertich was the longtime coach at Minnesota-Duluth and one of Sauer's closest friends.
"You just didn't do that back then,'' Sauer went on. "Everyone was so much more guarded. But you could still learn something from all of them.
"Denver's Murray Armstrong was businesslike in the way he approached the game. Michigan State's Amo Bessone was a true coach. Minnesota's John Mariucci was a good old guy.
"I'd have to say Bob Johnson did have the biggest influence on me,'' Sauer said. "I played for him, I coached with him and I coached against him. I went through a lot of things with Bob.''
Bob Johnson received the Lester Patrick Award in 1988.
Mark Johnson recalled, "When my dad received the recognition for what he did -- whether it was at Wisconsin, USA Hockey, Calgary or Pittsburgh -- it was a special evening for him and our family.''
To also receive the Patrick Award now makes it even more special.
Mark Johnson, the celebrated 1980 Olympian, cut his teeth as a head coach at Verona High School and with the minor league Madison Monsters before joining Sauer's staff at Wisconsin.
More recently, he has been collecting rings; NCAA championship rings. Johnson has guided the UW women to four national titles in the last six years.
The most recent of which was last season when Wisconsin defeated Boston University, 4-1, in the finals. Fittingly, the Badgers will face the BU Terriers on Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Faceoff both days will take place at 2 p.m.
"Having defeated them last year in Erie (Pa.) you know they're going to be excited to play us again,'' Johnson said. "They're going to be coming into the building looking for revenge.''
Over the last six games, the Badgers have tested themselves against North Dakota, Minnesota and Duluth. "It's been three weekends of playoff hockey,'' said Johnson. "And it elevates your play.''
Wisconsin has gone 5-1 over this challenging stretch.
"It's only October,'' he said, "but we've become better as a team playing each opponent.''
Not only were the Badgers able to walk out of Duluth with a sweep, but Johnson saw something that he had never seen before in all of his years in hockey as a player or a coach.
On a delayed penalty, the Bulldogs pulled their goaltender for a sixth attacker. But, in attempting to set up a teammate, a Duluth player inadvertently shot the puck into her own empty net.
The goal was credited to Wisconsin's Saige Pacholok, who took the initial penalty.
"The fans that were at the game,'' Johnson said, "and certainly the referees and both coaching staffs were a little stunned at what happened.
"Saige went into the penalty box and they announced her penalty first and then they announced her goal in the next sentence. I haven't seen that before going back to my playing days.
"But again, we found a way to win.''
Another common denominator between Johnson and Sauer, the Patrick Award winners.
Welcome to the WCHA Women's Notebook. Each week Ross LaDue from the UW Athletic Communications office breaks down the past weekend of action in the women's side of the WCHA and look ahead to the coming weekend.
This past weekend saw mostly nonconference matchups take place, with the marquee event being right here in Madison, between the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers and No. 3 Minnesota Golden Gophers. The only other WCHA contest was between St. Cloud State and Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. The rest of the conference was busy playing eastern teams as Bemidji State, Minnesota State and Minnesota Duluth traveled to Maine, Robert Morris and UConn, respectively. North Dakota stayed in Grand Forks to host Vermont.
Bemidji State at Maine
This series had one of the most surprising games of the weekend as the Beavers swept the Black Bears, winning the first game 3-2 in overtime and routing them 7-0 in the finale. The weekend was riddled with penalties as both teams totaled 30 minutes of penalties. Maine scored on a penalty shot on Friday and three of the other five goals in the game came on the power play.
The biggest surprise came in Saturday's game. After BSU scored its third goal of the third period, Maine pulled goaltender Kylie Smith at the 8:43 mark, but instead of putting in Brittany Ott, who played the day before, the Black Bears opted for a sixth skater and an empty net with 12 minutes left in the game. Needless to say the Beavers later scored on the empty net, which prompted the opening to be filled by Ott. However, the Black Bears continued to swap back-and-forth between an empty net and one with Ott. Bemidji State scored a final empty netter, as Maine's strategy of playing without a goalie for a more than 6 minutes failed to produce any goals.
Bemidji State players of notes: Emily Erickson recorded three goals and one assist on the weekend, while Erika Wheelhouse, last week's WCHA Defensive Player of the week, netted two goals. Slovakian goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova made 25 saves in the first game to record her second win of the season, while Alana McElhinney saw her first minutes of the season making 17 saves in the 7-0 win.
No. 6 Minnesota Duluth at Connecticut
A struggling UConn team hosting a national power-house had all the markings for a blowout so it was a bit surprising to see the Huskies net four goals on the Bulldogs and only lose by one in Friday's game. Whatever defensive lapses the Bulldogs had on Friday were erased on Saturday as they cruised to a 6-1 victory over the Huskies.
Minnesota Duluth players of notes: The Bulldogs did a good job of spreading the points around. In Friday's game no one had more than one goal or one assist and the only players to record more than one point in the game were Audrey Cournoyer and Katherine Wilson, who both had one goal and one assist. Both Cournoyer and Wilson were held to one assist on Saturday as Haley Irwin, Jenna McParland and Pernilla Winberg all recorded two points each. Jenny Harss made 38 saves on the weekend letting in five goals, not her best performance, but it was good enough to get two wins.
Minnesota State at Robert Morris
The Mavericks saw themselves with a 3-1 lead on Friday night before taking a nose dive in the last half of the game allowing Robert Morris to score three consecutive goals, including the game-winner in overtime. Exacting revenge, Minnesota State scored three consecutive goals to start off the game on Saturday. MSU would give up a shorthanded goal in the third, but would keep the lead to post their fourth win of the season.
Minnesota State players of notes: The teams's leading goal scorer, Lauren Smith was, kept off the score sheet in both games, while last year's leading scorer, Kathleen Rogan, was kept to one goal on the weekend. Emilia Andersson was the only Maverick to score more than one goal as she netted two. Inconsistency has plagued the Minnesota State goaltending corps for the past few seasons and this weekend was no exception. Senior Alli Altmann played both games and struggled in Friday's contest stopping 18 of 22, but played well on Saturday stopping 23 of 24.
No. 7 North Dakota vs Vermont
With only one win on the season, I expected North Dakota to enter this series hungry for two wins. Granted the three loses the Sioux suffered in their first four games were to teams ranked higher than them, North Dakota is a much better team than they ever have been and they were hosting a fairly weak Vermont squad. The score from Saturday's game would suggest the Sioux had a lot of pent up frustration that was taken out on the Catamounts. Within the first three minutes of the game, the Sioux had already taken a 2-0 lead. UND scored two more in the second period before adding five in the third to win the first game 9-1. Sunday's game saw Vermont actually score first and hold the 1-0 lead until the final seconds of the opening period. The Sioux then went on to win by a modest 4-1 margin.
North Dakota players of note: In Saturday's blowout, European standouts Michelle Karvinen and Andrea Dalen both scored two goals and tallied one assist, while Jocelyne Lamoureux scored two goals and helped on three others. Lamoureux's twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Kolls had two assists in the game. The twins would add one goal and one assist each in Sunday's game. Karvinen added two more helpers in the final game. Both UND netminders played over the weekend as Stephanie Ney got the nod in Saturday's contest, making 14 of 15 saves for her second win of the season. Jorid Dagfinrud got her first start of the season on Sunday and made 14 of 15 saves as well, with nine of those saves coming in the first period.
St. Cloud State at Ohio State
This series saw the most predictable scores of the weekend as Ohio State put up 5-1 scores both nights. SCSU actually scored the opening goal of the weekend, but gave up 10 straight before scoring the closing goal of the series.
Ohio State player notes: The Buckeyes' offense is led by the trio of Natalie Spooner, Laura McIntosh and Hokey Langan. Also sophomore Ally Tarr has been a pleasant surprise on offense for Ohio State so far this season. Spooner and McIntosh had a consistent weekend as they both recorded one goal and one assist each night. Langan has had a quiet start to the season and only tallied one goal all weekend. Tarr chipped in with a three point weekend. The biggest news for Ohio State on defense this year has been the return of their goaltender Chelsea Knapp who missed all of last year due to surgery rehab. However, Knapp wasn't the most elite before her absence and last year's true freshman Lisa Steffes played the most minutes of any goaltender in the nation and did a very acceptable job in net. Both goalies played a game on the weekend and it doesn't look like OSU has No. 1 goalie selected yet.
St. Cloud State players of note: Goaltender Tayler VanDenakker played both games of the series making 77 saves. VanDenakker has large shoes to fill after Ashley Nixon graduated at the end of last season. Nixon was a staple in net for the Huskies and was one of the better goalies in the conference even though her numbers didn't reflect it. VanDenakker looks to be a solid replacement, but with the weak SCSU defense don't expect her to be stealing any games too soon. Defender Jocelyn Zabrick has been seeing time up front at forward recently and scored the lone goal on Friday night.
No. 3 Minnesota at No. 1 Wisconsin
In the biggest game of the weekend in women's college hockey, the No. 3 Golden Gophers looked to topple the No. 1 Badgers as both teams entered the weekend with a 4-0-0 record. Overall, not much was decided. The weekend was a split, giving Ohio State the best record in the WCHA after four conference games. The two games were almost exact opposites of each other as Friday's contest saw the Gophers start the game flat and have a late rally fall short, while the Badgers did pretty much the same on Sunday. Both games had the same score line of 3-2, though on Friday the Badgers scored 3-0 and never lost the lead, while on Sunday the Gophers lost a 2-0 lead only to gain a 3-2 edge in the third period. The note of the weekend was Minnesota ending Wisconsin's unbeaten streak at 32 games.
Minnesota players of note: Leading goal scorer, Amanda Kessel was kept off the score sheet in Friday's loss, but she came back to score the game-winner on Sunday. Finnish goaltender Noora Räty made 50 saves on the weekend conceding five goals.
Wisconsin players of note: Carolyne Prévost scored two goals including the game-winner on Friday and assisted on both goals on Sunday, which were scored by Brooke Ammerman. Both Prévost and Brooke Ammerman have tallied at least one point so far in each of their games played this season. Sophomore netminder Alex Rigsby also conceded five goals on the weekend, but recorded two more saves than Räty in the series.
Possible WCHA Player of the Week winners (in order of likeliness)
Offensive Player of the Week
Jocelyne Lamoureux (UND) - 7 points (3G, 4A), 1 game-winning goal, 13 shots, +5 plus/minus
Emily Erickson (BSU) - 5 points (3G, 2A), 1 game-winning assist, 13 shots, +4 plus/minus
Carolyne Prévost (UW) - 4 points (2G, 2A), 1 game-winning goal, 5 shots, +3 plus/minus
Defensive Player of the Week
Jessica Wong (UMD) - 2 points (2G, 0A), 1 game-winning goal, 9 shots, +3 plus/minus
Erika Wheelhouse (BSU) - 2 points (2G, 0A), 8 shots, +3 plus/minus
Jennifer Harss (UMD) - 2 wins, 38 saves, only goalie to record two wins
Noora Räty (UM) - 1 win, 50 saves
Rookie of the Week
Michelle Karvinen (UND) - 5 points (2G, 3A), 2 game-winning assists, 10 shots, +5 plus/minus
Taylor Kuehl (OSU) - 3 points (0G, 3A), 8 shots, +3 plus/minus
Rachael Kelly (BSU) - 2 points (1G, 1A),1 game-winning assist in OT, 1 shot, +1 plus/minus
Minnesota State at No. 2 Minnesota
I see Minnesota sweeping this one. Minnesota State's goaltending and defense won't be able to stop the offensive power of the Gophers. The Mavericks may net a couple goals of their own, but I wouldn't expect any more than two or three all weekend get past Räty.
St. Cloud State at Bemidji State
Before the season began I wouldn't have been surprised to see one close game of two in the series. However, with the way the Beaver offense has been playing, they should come away with an easy weekend sweep.
Ohio State at No. 7 North Dakota
For a UND sweep the Sioux will have to rely on their defense and goaltending. The North Dakota offense should easily overpower Ohio State's defense, but if UND can't keep Spooner and McIntosh contained I wouldn't be surprised to see the Buckeyes squeeze out a win.
No. 1 Wisconsin at No. 6 Minnesota Duluth
Wisconsin will need to limit the two biggest scoring threats that UMD has by slowing down and limiting Haley Irwin while also containing Jessica Wong at the blue line. UMD goaltender Jenny Harss takes up a lot of room in net with her large pads and her glove is quick, but in the past, she has had poor rebound control and a weak five-hole. The Badgers will need to crash the net, in hopes for second and third-opportunity shots to score goals.
The first ever Women's Beantown Summer Classic kicked off today and for a tournament in its infancy, it features some serious talent; including 12 current or former UW women's hockey players. In the mix of players include current U.S. and Canadian Olympians, former and current WCHA players, and other Division I women's hockey players.
The Beantown Classic is normally a series of tournaments designed to showcase the talents of future male hockey prospects. This year they added a women's component for the summer and fielded five divisions: a futures division (birthyears ranging from '91-'97), a 1998 Division ('98 birth years only), a 1996/1997 Division ('96 & '97 birth years only), a college division and a senior division.
The college division fielded 14 teams and, by far, showcases the greatest talent out of the five divisions. A vast majority of the players in the division come from a mix of from Division I Division III programs. Unsurprisingly most of the players come from East Coast universities, as the tournament is in Boston.
Of those 14 teams in the college division, two stand out as heavyweight contenders for winning the whole thing. Two guesses for what teams the 12 Badgers are playing on...
The roster for Cheli's Chili Chicks (not sure if they're sponsored by Chris Chelios' restaurant, considering the only two are both in Michigan) features seven Badgers: Hillary Knight, Madison Packer, Meghan Duggan, Brianna Decker, Geena Prough, Carla Pentimone and Erika Lawler. Also on the roster are Caitlyn Cahow and Kacey Bellamy, both Olympic medalists for Team USA.
Brittany Ammerman, Kelly Nash, Carolyne Prévost, Stefanie McKeough and Brittany Haverstock are the remaining five Badgers and play for Team Sexy Back (aptly named for Justin Timberlake's ever-so-amazing single "SexyBack"). Looking to ride the same success as the triple platinum song, the roster for Team Sexy Back features three-time Olympians Julie Chu (Team USA) and Caroline Ouellette (Team Canada).
All 14 teams will play four games today and tomorrow, leading up to the top six teams making a single-elimination playoff bracket on Sunday. However, Cheli's Chili Chicks and Team Sexy Back cannot both go undefeated as they have to play each other in the preliminary stage in what could be a warm-up for the championship game.
Here are the complete rosters for the two "power-house" teams:
Cheli's Chili Chicks
F - Hillary Knight - Returning for her senior season, 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Team USA
F - Madison Packer - Returning for her sophomore season
F - Meghan Duggan - Just concluded her UW career winning the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award, 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
F - Brianna Decker - Returning for her junior season
F - Geena Prough - Just concluded her UW career
F - Carla Pentimone - Just concluded her UW career
F - Erika Lawler - Concluded UW career in 2009, 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Team USA.
F - Ashley Cottrell - Plays for Providence College
D - Caitlyn Cahow - Two-time Olympian for Team USA
D - Kacey Bellamy - 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Team USA
D - Josephine Pucci - Plays for Harvard, 2011 World Championships for Team USA
G - Geneveive LaCasse - Plays for Providence and had the fifth-best save percentage in the nation in 2010-11, 2011 Team Canada U-22.
Team Sexy Back
F - Brittany Ammerman - Returning for her sophomore season
F - Kelly Nash - Just concluded her UW career
F - Carolyne Prévost - Returning for her senior season, 2011 Team Canada U-22
D - Stefanie McKeough - Returning for her junior season , 2011 Team Canada U-22
D - Brittany Haverstock - Returning for her senior season, 2011 Team Canada U-22
F - Jess Koizumi - Assistant coach at Yale, former Minnesota Duluth player
F - Julie Chu - Three-time Olympian for Team USA
F - Emmanuelle Blais - Former Minnesota Duluth player, led Bulldogs in scoring in 2009-10
F - Caroline Ouellette - Three-time Olympian for Team Canada
F - Jess Tyra - Former Bemidji State player, currently at UW-Superior
F - Kelley Steadman - plays for Mercyhurst, 2011 IIHF World Championships for Team USA
F - Abby Gauthier - Plays for Providence
D - Gabie Figuroa - Plays for Princeton
D - Jody Holland - Former North Dakota player, currently at UW-Superior
D - Liz Keady - Plays for Princeton
D - Erica Kromm - Plays for Brown
G - Laura Chamberlain - Plays for RIT
After a week of voting, Badgers fans have spoken with their pick for the top play of the 2010-11 season. In reality, the contest was probably over before it started.
The play that got the football Badgers' thrilling 31-18 win over No. 1-ranked Ohio State "underway with ... a ... bang" ran away with nearly half the votes.
David Gilreath's 97-yard return for touchdown on the game's opening kickoff claimed 48.7 percent of the vote to take the title in the UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year poll.
Runner-up honors -- with 27.2 percent of the fan vote -- went to women's hockey's Kelly Nash, who tallied the game-winner in overtime to secure the WCHA Final Face-off crown over Minnesota.
Josh Gasser's buzzer-beating 3-pointer garnered 9.5 percent of the vote to finish third, and Landon Peacock's last-gasp pass for the Big Ten cross country title was fourth with 5.3 percent. Justin Schultz's overtime game-winner for the Badger men rounded out the top five with 4.3 percent.
Here's a look at the complete poll results:
48.7% David Gilreath - Football - Opening kickoff return for TD vs. Ohio State (Oct. 16)
27.2% Kelly Nash - Women's Hockey- OT game-winner in WCHA Final Face-Off (March 5)
9.5% Josh Gasser - Men's Basketball - Buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Michigan (Feb. 23)
5.3% Landon Peacock - Men's Cross Country - Late pass to win Big Ten title (Oct. 31)
4.3% Justin Schultz - Men's Hockey - OT game-winning goal vs. Canisius (Jan. 8)
3.5% Brad Nortman - Football - Fake punt to keep drive alive vs. Iowa (Oct. 23)
1.4% Lin Zastrow - Women's Basketball - Game-tying tip-in at buzzer vs. Wyoming (Dec. 15)
And, in case you want to see it again, the top play in UW sports for 2010-11: