Wisconsin earns Frozen Four bid with 3-1 victory

first_imgAlex Rigsby stopped 28 of Mercyhurst’s 29 shots on net in the NCAA quarterfinal game Saturday night at the Kohl Center.[/media-credit]Tournament time calls for top players to step up big time, and for the Wisconsin women’s hockey team, that’s exactly what happened in a 3-1 victory over Mercyhurst Saturday night.The Badgers will head to Duluth, Minn., for the Frozen Four nextweekend against Boston College. A win Friday would send Wisconsin to the2012 National Championship game Sunday.With the stakes raised significantly, the Badgers (32-4-2) came out strong and with two key goals coming from senior players, they were able to defeat the Lakers (23-8-3).The Badgers started off the game with energy and offensive dominance, keeping Mercyhurst without a shot on net for the first 15 minutes. Senior forward Carolyne Prevost gave Wisconsin a 1-0 lead at 11:48 in the first period. After her linemate, junior forward Brianna Decker, made a move around a Laker defenseman, Prevost received a pass across the slot and buried the puck in the back of the net.“At this time in the season and these type of games, your upperclassmen, your seniors, your best players have to be your best players if you are going to have a chance to be successful,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “It was nice to see [Carolyne] get the opening goal. They made a great read.”Mercyhurst did not show signs of letting up and came out strong in the second period, tying the Badgers in shots at 10 each. With 40 seconds left in the second period, Lakers forward Kelley Steadman shot the puck past UW goaltender Alex Rigsby from inside the right circle. The goal sent both teams to the locker room tied 1-1 with one period left to play.“I think our second period was our best, we put a lot more shots on net and we had a lot more scoring chances,” Steadman said. “Obviously when that goal went in it was a bit of a turning point for us.”However, the energy Mercyhurst gained was quickly dissipated by Wisconsin at the beginning of the third period. Knowing her team needed a goal, senior forward and captain Hilary Knight stepped up big for Wisconsin.After creating a turnover during a penalty kill, Prevost rushed the puck up the ice and saw Knight crashing towards the net. Prevost slid the puck across the crease, allowing Knight to tap it in, giving UW a 2-1 lead with 8:42 left to play.Knight’s shorthanded goal was her ninth game-winning goal for UW this season. She leads the nation in game winners, as well as tying for the top spot in short-handed goals with four.“[Prevost] was able to see Hilary coming down and they made a great play, a great pass, and those are the differences between maybe winning a game, and not winning a game,” Johnson said. “It was a big play at a key time in the game.”The Lakers fought on, but after pulling their goaltender in the final minutes to try and tie the game up, Decker was able to put in Wisconsin’s third goal on an open net and sealed in the UW victory.“I think we did a lot of good things,” Johnson said. “I think as coaches you are looking for perfections so. … I don’t think we played an entire 60-minute game, but we did what we need to do to win the game. That is what we are looking for right now.”For Knight, Prevost and the three other Badger seniors, Saturday’s game marked their final time playing in at home in Madison. The senior class has made an undeniable impact on the UW program, being a part of the national championship team last season.“It is hard to really put it into words, but this place is so special,” Knight said. “Covering my four years here, it is a pretty incredible experience. I’m just happy to be apart of something great, and I am really grateful.”last_img

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