For the first 10 minutes of Friday’s game, it looked like the women of Ohio State would be able to hang with the top-ranked Wisconsin Badgers.
Then, things got away from the Buckeyes.
“I thought we didn’t get back on our heels and we pressed and we were doing our forecheck, which is pretty aggressive…but then Wisconsin kind of put on a ‘No. 1-type’ pressure,” Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said.
“Wisconsin, I think, is the best team in the country.”
It’s doubtful anyone in the building Friday night would disagree. The Badgers’ speed and skill were on display as they dominated the final 50 minutes of the game en route to a 7-0 victory. Wisconsin’s Jenny Ryan opened the scoring at the 10:47 mark of the first period, which seemed to give the Badgers all the momentum after an evenly matched start to the game.
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerWHockey) December 9, 2016
“The games here [at Ohio State] are always kind of like that for us. It’s a small rink, so it takes us a little bit to get used to the weird bounces and just the closer area that we’re playing with,” Ryan said. “I think that we just started shooting the puck more and getting in front of the net and then the goals just kept coming.”
Wisconsin scored another goal in the first period, four times in the second and once more in the third, while outshooting Ohio State 48-14 in the game. Ryan and Annie Pankowski each netted two goals, while Emily Clark added a goal and four assists.
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerWHockey) December 10, 2016
The four goals Wisconsin scored in the second period can be looked at as two sets of two. Pankowski and Clark scored just 13 seconds apart less than five minutes into the frame, then Ryan and Pankowski tallied less than a minute apart later in the period.
“I think just being able to build off each other is huge for us,” Clark said of scoring in rapid succession. “When you get that and get teams on their heels a little bit, it’s good to take advantage of it.”
According to the head coach, it’s a case of playing the right way paying off.
“You can’t explain some nights why the puck goes in and other nights the same opportunities don’t go in,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “But if you continue to do little things, get to the net and create those opportunities eventually go in and tonight was one of those where we struck in a couple situations pretty quick.”
There may be a pattern developing. Wisconsin’s previous game, an 8-2 win against Minnesota on Sunday, was tied at one in the first period before the Badgers scored three goals in a 1:34 span. Ryan attributes the ability to score in that fashion to talent and a certain mindset.
“We’ve got a lot of really strong players up front…a lot of players who can score goals, so, we just use the momentum from the last goal and keep it moving,” Ryan said. “We don’t ever sit back after a goal so I think that’s really important for us to be able to get those goals right after the other.”
Maintaining Minnesota Momentum
Friday night’s win came less than a week after a marquee series between No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 2 Minnesota. The Golden Gophers took game one Saturday before the Badgers responded in a big way with the aforementioned 8-2 win Sunday. One might think a team could have a let down after such a big matchup, but we saw quite the opposite from Wisconsin against Ohio State.
“I think that, obviously, it could’ve gone one of two ways; we could sit back or keep moving from the last game, so, I think we’re all really happy that we kept moving forward and used that momentum,” Ryan said.
“The one thing, after playing six periods against [Minnesota]…is you come out of it playing quick and tonight, the last 50 minutes, we were playing pretty quick tonight and controlling the puck and creating opportunities,” Johnson said Friday.
The Badgers look to keep their momentum going in Saturday’s rematch with the Buckeyes, the final game of the calendar year for both teams.
Jeff is a college hockey and Columbus Blue Jackets contributor for The Hockey Writers. He is a former TV sports reporter who has covered, broadcasted, coached and played hockey at various levels. You can follow him on Twitter @jeff_schaffer13