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Wisconsin Badgers women's hockey team proving deeper than potent top line
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UW WOMEN’S HOCKEY

Wisconsin Badgers women's hockey team proving deeper than potent top line

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The last five games have provided some constants for the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team.

All have been victories where the Badgers scored at least five goals. All have included a healthy dose of top-line production, with Daryl Watts scoring in each.

Most important to coach Mark Johnson, however, was all included some goals from secondary sources, a key component in being able to put up big offensive numbers on a consistent basis.

While the top line of Watts, Abby Roque and Sophie Shirley has scored 15 of UW’s 27 goals in the past handful of games, each outing has included at least two goals from other players.

“Our team has a lot of depth, and it’s nice to see us use that,” senior forward Presley Norby said. “That first line is extremely talented, but it’s nice to have some of the other players contribute.”

Entering a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against No. 10 Minnesota Duluth on Friday and Saturday at LaBahn Arena, the top-ranked Badgers have been able to tap into scoring reserves to make a difference in games.

Norby scored twice against Harvard last Friday. Junior Brette Pettet has hit the net in three of the past five games.

Junior Delaney Drake got her first goal of the season to give UW a 4-2 lead against Boston College last Saturday.

“The focus for us as a staff has been the last couple weekends to try to incorporate and get some more secondary scoring,” Johnson said. “Our first group has been pretty consistent game in and game out. The games that we’re able to get up to four, five, six, seven, we’ve gotten that secondary scoring.”

The Badgers have scored at least five goals in five consecutive games only two other times in the past eight seasons — the first five games of 2015-16 and a stretch in December 2016 and January 2017.

Watts, Shirley and Roque — the nation’s top three point-scorers — have done the most damage this season while still opening up opportunities for other lines to contribute.

“When we’re playing a lot of top teams, it makes sense for them to target our first line and say if we can shut them down, then we have a good shot at beating Wisconsin,” Pettet said. “I think if our second and third line can produce goals, that’s huge for us. That’s the difference between winning and losing games when we play tough teams.”

The Badgers (16-1-1, 8-1-1-0 WCHA) are expecting the upcoming games against Minnesota Duluth (8-6-2, 4-4-2-1) to fall into that category. They’re UW’s final two contests before a three-weekend break, so there’s an emphasis on finishing strong.

Non-conference victories last weekend in Nashville, Tennessee, helped keep the momentum going, Pettet said.

“It’s a little rewarding,” she said. “You trust the process a little more, knowing that we were definitely challenged this weekend and had two tough games and were able to come out on top.”

UW leads the country in scoring by nearly a goal per game, and not all of it is because of the potent top line.

Watts, Shirley and Roque have combined to score half of the Badgers’ even-strength goals this season, but a national-best 13 others have chipped in at least once.

In a 3-2 victory over Minnesota State on Nov. 16, the first line produced all the goals. In the five games since, seven other players also have tallied.

“As you gain more in those areas, I think the confidence from those players that are scoring starts to increase,” Johnson said. “If we’re able to sustain that for a period of time, then we become a stronger team to play against.”

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