Women’s hockey: Badgers season ends at hands of Minnesota for second straight year
It was a new year and a new venue, but that didn’t help the Wisconsin women’s hockey team get a different result at the Frozen Four.
Facing arch rival Minnesota for the second straight year in the national semifinals, the Badgers (29-7-4) scored first, but then allowed three goals in the second period as they fell 3-1 to the top-seeded Gophers (33-3-4).
Minnesota went on to the National Championship Sunday afternoon where it knocked off Harvard 4-1 to win its sixth national title.
Just like last year’s Frozen Four semifinal, the Badgers held the lead over Minnesota, but gave up a few goals and let the chance to play in the National Championship game get away.
“I told our team that we left everything on the ice,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “We had our opportunities, we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we had. It wasn’t due to a lack of effort or commitment. The team was happy with the way we played.”
Wisconsin lost 5-3 to the Gophers in the same game a year ago, and this year it scored just five total goals in five losses to a team it hasn’t beaten since 2011.
“The tough part is you come up short again, similar situation that we were in last year,” Johnson added. “You can taste the championship game and you’re one step away. It’s disappointing for anybody when it’s your last game and you don’t get to practice tomorrow and don’t get the opportunity to play Sunday afternoon.”
Freshman Annie Pankowski lit the lamp under a minute into the second period when the puck slid to her after freshman Emily Clark won the faceoff. Pankowski put the puck top shelf past Gopher goaltender Amanda Leveille.
Pankowski scored 42 points on the season to the lead Badgers. This was the first time a freshman has led Wisconsin in scoring since the 2003-04 season.
The goal created some energy for the Badgers, but they were not able to find the back of the net again.
Minnesota quickly answered with a goal halfway through the second period. The puck escaped from a scramble in front of the net, and Hannah Brandt stuffed a shot behind Wisconsin netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens at the 8:53 mark of the frame.
“Their elite players, their go-to players always seem to come up big in the big moments,” Johnson said. “When they needed a boost in today’s game Hannah [Brandt] stepped up and scored and she set up a couple more plays. That’s why she’s so special to them, and that’s one of the reasons that for three years they’ve been pretty tough to defeat, especially for us.”
Less than two minutes after the equalizer, the Maryanne Menefee scored her goal on a rebound to give Minnesota the lead for good.
Minnesota finished off its second period flurry with the final goal of the game on a power play. Kelly Pannek grabbed a rebound and lit the lamp to give the nation’s best power-play an insurance tally against the nation’s best penalty kill in Wisconsin, which had only allowed four power-play tallies all year before that score.
“After we scored and made it 1-0, we had some good shifts after that. They capitalized on a play and energized it and within two minutes they got a second goal, and then they capitalized on a power play later in the period,” Johnson said.
Wisconsin and Minnesota both had 13 shots in the middle period, but the Gophers were the ones who took advantage of the potential scoring plays.
“Again, the chances we had in the second period, two or three golden opportunities, even if you get one of those it might change the momentum of the game,” Johnson said. “Their goaltender was able to make the saves she needed to, they blocked the shots that they needed, and capitalized on the opportunities when we presented them.”
The Gophers, who were playing on very familiar ice at Ridder Arena, were able to create energy in their home arena after the goals. That was something the Badgers could not do, despite outshooting Minnesota 35-23 on the night. But Leveille made 34 saves to keep the Gophers in the game and in control of it near the end.
“All the credit in the world to that goalie; she played a great game, but her team played a great game in front of her,” Pankowski said. “It’s just the little bounces that didn’t go our way that could have changed the game. I think we had the opportunities, we just didn’t get our bounce.”
In the other net, Wisconsin’s Desbiens finished with just 20 saves and had to make just three stops in the final period when UW outshot Minnesota 10-3. Coming into the game, the Badgers and Gophers were the top two in the country in shots on goal per game. However, UW held Minnesota to a season-low 23 shots. Desbiens, who had 14 shutouts this season, couldn’t stop the Gophers high-powered attack.
The senior class of Brittany Ammerman, Blayre Turnbull, Karley Sylvester, Katy Josephs and Katarina Zgraja leave Wisconsin on this note, not having defeated the Gophers in 18 straight games, dating back to 2011.
The younger players could see how those players felt, something they can use as they begin to prepare for next year.
“I think in the locker room you could see on the faces of everyone, even the seniors that this was not enough for everyone,” Pankowski said. “It’s going to be that bitter taste that’s in our mouth that’s going to drive us next year.”
Women’s hockey: Badgers proving tough to stop down stretch
Stopping the third-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team is proving to be difficult this time of the year.
A 5-1 victory over visiting fifth-seeded Boston University Saturday sent the Badgers to the Frozen Four for the eighth time in the past 10 years.
The Badgers are on a six-game winning streak, outscoring their competitors 27-4 in that span.
After winning the WCHA Final Face-Off, Wisconsin earned the fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play host to the Terriers.
With what could be considered a tough draw for the NCAA tournament, the Badgers just focused on playing their game.
As Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson has preached all season long, the Badgers came out strong in the first period with the help of freshman Annie Pankowski.
Pankowski caught Boston University on a line change and set the tone for the rest of the game with her breakaway score.
“I’m proud of our team,” Johnson said. “They practiced hard all week and came out with a lot of energy and fed off the crowd, and we’re certainly happy with outcome.”
Wisconsin has dominated their opponents both offensively and defensively since the beginning of the playoffs.
“I think our team is at the point where we are clicking amazingly — every line,” senior Katarina Zgraja said.
Despite their lead, the Badgers did not let up on the overmatched Terriers.
“Not so much a statement victory so much as to show ourselves how far we have come since the beginning of the season,” Pankowski said. “We put a good foot forward and kept coming in waves, and we never tried to let the energy fall too low on the bench.
“It was almost practice for us to know what it feels like in that intense game and bring it to another level.”
The warm weather kept the ice slow, and the sell-out crowd maintained high energy.
“I think one thing both teams had to deal with was when it is warm inside, the ice had trouble settling and the ice was slow,” Johnson said. “I noticed some of our players were a little uncomfortable with it, and certainly for [Boston University], I’m sure the same thing.”
The game was not without adversity for the Badgers either. Defenseman Melissa Channell left the game with a bloody hand about midway through the first period, and senior Brittany Ammerman got a five-minute major penalty in the third period.
The referees said Ammerman made contact with the opponent’s head and assessed a game misconduct. However, the misconduct penalty does not carry over and Ammerman will be able to play Friday against Minnesota.
Wisconsin was already in control at that juncture, leading 4-0 when the ejection took place, which made Johnson’s decisions easier when finding players to fill in.
With each of these Johnson had to switch the lines a bit to fill in for the lost players, but he said he believes everyone stepped up when necessary.
“People get hurt. Everybody sees that, everybody understands it,” Johnson said. “When I call somebody up whether it’s for an injury or somebody going to the locker room, people have to step up and not miss a beat.”
The Badgers have continued their beat with nothing slowing them down yet, dispatching eighth-ranked North Dakota, 10th ranked Bemidji State and now fifth-ranked Boston University.
Wisconsin’s next challenge will be against top-seeded Minnesota in Minneapolis as part of the Frozen Four.
This team is not going to back down from the challenge, though.
The Badgers lost one game and tied the other when they traveled to Minnesota in early January. The confidence level of the team might be the biggest change right now and something that could be a boost moving forward.
“I think what happened last time, there was a lot of excitement and nerves as well. Now going up there, we have this momentum behind us and we know how good we can play,” Pankowski said. “I don’t think being up in Minnesota will be that much of a disadvantage for us as long as we play our game.”
Everyone on the team seems poised for potential revenge against Minnesota. Other players share the sentiment, as well.
“I think we just need to keep playing how we are doing, and I think we will be just fine,” goalkeeper Ann-Renée Desbiens said.
Ammerman is the only player on the team remaining from the last championship run in 2011, but the team is playing with confidence of having gone through this tournament for many years.
“Our team dynamic is really cool right now. We’re kind of on the cloud, but we’re also very humble at the same time,” Zgraja said. “We’re not being freaked out about it. We are all focused on the same goal, and I think that is what is making us successful right now.”
Correction: The original story stated that Wisconsin’s Brittany Ammerman will miss the next game because of her game misconduct penalty. However, under NCAA rules, Ammerman’s penalty applies to only Saturday’s game and does not affect her eligibility going forward in the National Semifinal game of the Frozen Four Friday against Minnesota.
Women’s hockey: Mikayla Johnson embraces, navigates family legacy at UW
Coming to Wisconsin meant dealing with higher expectations for Wisconsin women’s hockey redshirt sophomore Mikayla Johnson.
Following in her family’s footsteps in Madison, Mikayla has to overcome some of the difficulty of following the “Johnson” legacy throughout Badger history but it was always a goal of hers to wear the cardinal and white of a Wisconsin women’s hockey sweater.
“It’s been my dream,” Mikayla Johnson said. “It’s hard not to. It’s my hometown. The campus is awesome. And the program here is unbelievable, so I was pretty jacked.”
Bob Johnson, Mikayla’s grandfather, coached the men’s hockey team for 16 years and is a member of the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame.
Mikayla’s father, Mark Johnson, was a Badgers men’s hockey player from 1976-79 before becoming a national sensation as a member of the 1980 United States Olympic team when he scored the tying goal against the Soviet Union as part of the “Miracle on Ice.”
Mark Johnson also played in the NHL for 10 seasons with five different teams.
Patrick Johnson, her brother, played for the Badgers from 2007-11, before being picked by Montreal in the 2008 NHL draft. He has had to deal with many of the same issues her sister now faces.
“They need to understand all of the parameters of being on the team being a part of Wisconsin and maybe dealing with some of the things that other student-athletes don’t have to deal with,” Mark Johnson, now the Wisconsin women’s hockey team head coach, said. “In her case, the dad is the coach, and my son’s case, trying to follow in my footsteps and my dad’s footsteps and being a ‘Johnson’ and understanding all that goes into that. It’s probably harder on her, and certainly harder on Patrick because of those situations they were in.”
Mark Johnson had to deal with a similar situation in his time as a member of the Badger men’s hockey team. He played in Madison with his father coaching him during that time, so he understands the complexity of coaching a child.
His responsibilities as a coach are to put the team first, a line that Mark Johnson believes he has dealt with well.
“I had played for my dad here and gone through that,” the elder Johnson said. “So the shoe is on the other foot, so now I’m the coach. So you take each day at a time and each situation at a time and handle it the best, knowing you have the best interest of the team.”
He understands that having your father around practice every day could be difficult for a college student to get used to.
But Mark Johnson has been impressed with how his daughter has handled the situation, especially now that he gets to see her on a daily basis and can see how she interacts and fits in with her teammates.
“I think the resilience of playing for your dad at the university and dealing with some of the things a coach’s daughter or a coach’s son has to deal with and conduct themselves on a daily basis,” Mark Johnson said. “Some days are hard, but I’ve been impressed with the way she has handled it. I think she has matured and grown and learned a lot about herself in that situation.”
The recruiting started normally, with assistant coach Jackie Friesen starting the conversation with Mikayla about playing for the cardinal and white. In fact, her in-house recruiting visit was in her house. She was sitting at home when Mark Johhson walked in and asked her to play for Wisconsin.
She knew what she was getting into when she took the offer from her father to play at Wisconsin, but she also could not turn down the opportunity to succeed where her family has made such a name.
But it was not exactly what Mikayla expected when she decided to play in Madison.
After red-shirting her freshman season, she played in 27 games last season for Wisconsin, tallying just a goal and an assist. This year Mikayla has seen limited game action, as well, playing in more than half of the 32 total games thus far. But she’s doubled her goal scoring output this season with a goal on the road at Lindenwood Sept. 27 and adding another on the road at New Hampshire on Nov. 29.
Dealing with the family name can be difficult at times for her, but she also sees a different side to her father now.
“It’s also been a lot more fun than I expected,” Mikayla said. “He’s goofy and fun to be with. I didn’t get to see him every day until I came to play here.”
For some people, dealing with a parent daily, especially in front of friends, could prove to be difficult, but Mikayla has taken everything in stride. Playing for the Badgers has strengthened their relationship in ways she could not previously imagine, she said.
“Some people would think it could make it awkward between us, but I think we’ve gotten a lot closer between us actually,” Mikayla said. “It’s goofy and weird, and serious at other times. It’s fun because I get to see him all the time.”
Early goal, stout defense paves the way for Wisconsin win
An early goal from freshman Tom Barlow gave the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team the spark it needed to win against Green Bay Tuesday night.
Barlow’s goal in the 22nd minute from teammate Mark Segbers was the first early goal for the Badgers in well over two weeks.
With Barlow scoring an early goal in the match, Wisconsin was able to control many aspects of the game and keep attacking the Phoenix.
“We are in control of the game, so we can do what we want and play how we want,” Barlow said. “It’s a big advantage, we just have to make sure we keep the lead.”
Even after scoring the goal, Wisconsin head coach John Trask said he still wanted to see more out of his team.
“It’s nice to see that they respond to some motivation,” Trask said. “On game day, I’ve been pretty understanding of what we’ve been going through. Today, I let them have it a little bit at halftime, and compliments to them, I thought they all picked it up.”
With the entire team excited about the early goal, the Badgers played an overall better game, especially in the second half.
“We kept our discipline. We didn’t just start fouling them and giving them more chances, but usually that’s what you see in a college soccer game,” Trask said. “When one team has the 1-0 lead, the other team all of the sudden gets real aggressive, and sometimes the momentum can switch.”
Keeping the lead has been a big challenge for the Badgers this season, as they have conceded goals quickly after scoring goals of their own against Michigan and Rutgers. Allowing a quick response to a goal can greatly shift the momentum of the match, as seen against Michigan and Rutgers — games that UW ended up losing.
Because of games like that, the Badgers have been working on drills where they have to keep the lead without fouling the opposing players.
“One of the things that was one of our weaknesses early in the year was giving up the late goal,” Segbers said. “Finally, everyone was tuned in and we kept each other accountable, and we kept the 1-0 lead.”
They avoided that weakness by consistently attacking throughout the second half, and the pressure in Green Bay’s half of the field allowed them to dominate time of possession in the second half.
Trask was also able to seamlessly get a few new players into the mix at halftime, which kept other players fresh while still playing a strong game.
“I always felt that as the game wore on, especially in the second half, we looked like the more likely team to get the second [goal],” Trask said.
Freshman goalkeeper Adrian Remeniuk also kept a clean sheet on the night, keeping the Badgers in the game from the beginning, when Green Bay was at their strongest attacking.
The Badger defense played another clean game as well, allowing only three shots on goal throughout the entire match.
Offensively, Wisconsin had eight shots on target, with one of those being the goal from Barlow.
The team’s aggressive nature was possible in part because of the formation Green Bay played. They were in a 3-5-2, which left fewer defenders in the back, and made it easier for the connection between Segbers, Barlow, and the rest of the Badgers. Wisconsin had not played a team with that formation yet this year, which may have been the reason they felt they could consistently attack.
After a rough stretch for the Badgers in which they had lost their last seven games, an early goal was exactly what they needed to get their confidence back up, especially for a young team who was looking for an early morale booster.
“I think it gave us so much more confidence. We’ve been coming off some tough losses, so to jump out early and start early boosts team morale,” Segbers said.
Trask said he’s happy to get out of the slump, but said he wants to see more urgency to put the opponent away by scoring that second goal. Getting another goal would put the game away and show that the Badgers played an overall solid game.
“We weren’t [able to get the second goal] tonight, but that’s the continued journey these guys are on. They can be a bit more ruthless because there were some opportunities presented,” Trask said.
This in-state rivalry energized the team and should propel the Badgers as they continue with Big Ten play at Michigan State on Saturday.