Oct. 18, 2013
The No. 4 Wisconsin women’s hockey team looks to rebound after a tough series at No. 1 Minnesota by hosting St. Cloud State this weekend at LaBahn Arena. The Badgers open the series against the Huskies with a 7 p.m. match-up Friday and a 3 p.m. series conclusion on Saturday.
The last contest between the teams involved a two-game series last March, where Wisconsin defeated St. Cloud 5-0 and 4-1. Wisconsin has won the last 16 tilts against the Huskies, and UW holds a 53-7-2 overall record against SCSU.
St. Cloud State will also seek its first win of the 2013-14 season this weekend, holding a 0-1-1 WCHA record after recording a tie and a loss to conference competitor No. 10 Ohio State last weekend. Wisconsin, who fell short of Minnesota 1-2 Friday night and 0-2 Saturday afternoon, hopes to put the tough weekend behind them and focus on the contests ahead.
“I thought we played six good periods that came up a little bit short,” UW head coach Mark Johnson said. “But in the process in a long journey as the season goes along, a lot of things on the positive side came out this past weekend. So we'll continue to build on it, come back this afternoon and try to make some adjustments and try to get better and get ready for Friday night's game against St. Cloud.”
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And to move forward with the season, Johnson said, the team will work to build on experience from its previous match-ups, both the victories and the defeats. And a major take-away from the Minnesota tilts was playing in the intense atmosphere the 2,754 fans filling the Ridder Arena on Friday night provided.
“I thought, going into a real hostile atmosphere, probably one of the toughest on the women's side in college hockey, I thought our players, especially our young players, handled themselves very well,” Johnson said. “They were hoisting the banner in celebration of their championship last year. So the house was full. A lot of excitement, a lot of energy, and I thought our team responded very well, especially in the first half of the game.”
UW goaltender and team captain Alex Rigsby managed to tally 21 saves in the first game of the series and 31 in the next, bringing her season save percentage to 0.955. Rigsby, who was awarded WCHA Defensive Player of the Week last week for her efforts against Minnesota State, is six wins away from claiming the school win record from former goaltender Jessie Vetter, who holds 91.
Sophomore Erika Sowchuk also made her mark during the series, giving Wisconsin an early 1-0 lead in the first game against the Golden Gophers after scoring her first goal of the season on freshman Mellissa Channell’s first collegiate assist. Although the Badgers would remain scoreless for the remainder of the series, Johnson said he considers the weekend an overall positive experience for the team.
“I think we're all a little disappointed we didn't come away with a victory in either game,” said Johnson. “But I think, as a team, a lot of positive things came out of the weekend, including a very tight game. I certainly love the way we competed. The big thing is, as I told the team as we entered last weekend, the objective is to try to get better than we were the first weekend against Minnesota State.”
Four different St. Cloud players tallied goals in last weekend’s losses to Ohio State. Senior Cari Coen and junior Julia Gilbert both scored in the first tilt, which resulted in a 2-2 tie after regulation time and an overtime period were played. Seniors Amanda Monkman and Molli Mott both found the back of the net during the shootout to top Ohio State 2-1.
In the series conclusion on Oct. 12, teammates Mott and junior Abby Ness both lit the lamp but the team still fell short to the Buckeyes 4-2.
The faceoff between the Badgers and the Huskies begins a six-game string of home games for Wisconsin, four of which are WCHA conference match-ups. The homestand is something Johnson plans on taking advantage of.
“It gives the younger players an opportunity as they continue to settle into college life,” Johnson said. “Certainly having six home games, if you're successful, it bodes well because then you have a bye weekend after that and have an opportunity to do some things on the practice sheet you may not do on the week where you're preparing for a game.”