A few minutes into the third period Saturday, University of Wisconsin women’s hockey coach Mark Johnson noticed a shift in the way a game against Minnesota State was developing.
“They were continuing to compete,” Johnson said, “and we weren’t.”
Despite a three-goal lead entering the final period, the second-ranked Badgers had no room to coast to the finish after the Mavericks scored twice.
UW held on for a 3-2 victory at LaBahn Arena, its 26th consecutive win over Minnesota State, but had some troubling moments in doing so.
There was a momentum shift when the Mavericks got a power-play goal from Tristen Truax five minutes into the third period and an even-strength goal from Emily Antony with 6:43 remaining.
Johnson said his team didn’t handle it well and called it a learning opportunity.
“You go back and show some video and get them to understand how to manage the game, he said. “We didn’t do a good job of managing a lot of areas.”
Having lost their No. 1 ranking to Minnesota, the second-ranked Badgers host a WCHA series against Minnesota State on Saturday and Sunday at LaBahn Arena.
After all going minus-2 in a 2-2 tie at Minnesota in the Badgers’ last game Nov. 3, UW’s top line of Daryl Watts, Abby Roque and Sophie Shirley all scored Saturday and were plus-3.
Watts scored in the first period on the Badgers’ 13th shot on goal, and Shirley and Roque hit the net in the second period to open up a 3-0 lead.
The top line has been focusing on its play away from the puck lately.
“I think that’s something you can always work on,” Shirley said. “I know for myself, it’s always working on that 200-foot game. And for our line, too, to make sure we’re getting that offensive-zone time, we want to make sure that we’re taking care of our D zone and making sure that we’re getting back.”
UW (11-1-1, 5-1-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) conceded its first power-play goal in 11 games when Truax redirected home a McKenzie Sederberg shot. The Badgers had killed 28 straight penalties since allowing a pair of power-play goals against Lindenwood on Sept. 28.
Another power play gave the Mavericks (6-5-2, 2-5-2-2) more attacking time even though UW killed it. Antony later followed her own blocked shot to score on a rebound.
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The Mavericks got a power play with 2:04 remaining after a hooking penalty on UW’s Alexis Mauermann, and they pulled the goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage.
Brooke Bryant had three shot attempts during the power play, some of which came with UW defender Natalie Buchbinder playing without a stick. Badgers forward Britta Curl blocked one, another went wide and goaltender Kristen Campbell (27 saves) saved the third.
A cross-checking penalty on Minnesota State’s Kelsey King with 35.6 seconds left negated the rest of the power play, and the Badgers killed the clock.
UW’s top line contributed all the offense, starting with a first-period goal that came after a set of broken plays all went in their favor.
Mekenzie Steffen forced Minnesota State’s Claire Butorac into a turnover while she was attempting to exit the zone. Roque outbattled Mallorie Iozzo for the puck along the boards and advanced it in front to Shirley.
Shirley touched the puck past Mavericks defender Jordan Jackson for Watts to backhand past goaltender Abigail Levy (32 saves) for her 11th goal of the season.
The first line scored again on the first shift of the second period, with Shirley tapping in a loose puck off a Steffen shot that bounced around in front and got behind Levy.
Roque gave everyone on the top line a goal when she scored from the inside of the right circle for a 3-0 lead later in the middle frame.
“I think they understand if we’re going to be successful, they’re the group that’s going to have to lead us,” Johnson said of his top line.
Minnesota State 0 0 2 — 2
Wisconsin 1 2 0 — 3
First period: W — Watts 11 (S. Shirley, Roque), 16:20. Penalty: Poinar, MS, 3:22.
Second period: W — S. Shirley 11 (Steffen, Watts), :27; Roque 10 (S. Shirley), 6:17. Penalty: Oelkers, MS, 8:25.
Third period: MS — Truax 4 (Sederberg, Fleming), 14:48 (pp); Antony 2 (Gardner), 13:17. Penalties: Bowlby, W, 3:46; Fleming, MS, 5:29; Roque, W, 5:29; Greig, W, 9:09; Mauermann, W, 17:56; King, MS, 19:24.
Saves: MS (Levy 13-15-4) 32; W (Campbell 8-8-11) 27. Power plays: MS 1-for-3; W 0-for-3. Att. — 2,273.