This is a compilation of my work for The Daily Cardinal. I was one of the beat writers covering the national-runner up Wisconsin women’s hockey team. I also previously covered the Badger softball team, a few of the UW Athletics weekly press conference and even managed to sneak in the 2017 Spring Football game.
LaBahn Arena. Home of the Wisconsin women’s hockey program.
ST. CHARLES, Mo. — It wasn’t supposed to end this way for the Wisconsin women’s hockey team. The nation’s top-ranked team—statistically and in the polls all season—which also had the best player in women’s hockey fell short of a national championship Sunday afternoon as No. 2 Clarkson defeated the top-seeded Badgers 3-0. Clarkson’s Cayley Mercer scored two goals as the Golden Knights won their second national title.“Obviously we’re disappointed with the outcome, but the kids played hard, they played well, they created opportunities, so I’m very proud of their effort,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “Whether it’s women’s college hockey or the NHL or men’s college hockey, sometimes it’s tough to score, it’s tough to get pucks to net … I’m proud of the way that we played. It’s just, for whatever reason, the pucks don’t go in some nights and for this afternoon’s game it just didn’t go in for us.”The Badgers (33-3-4) started the first period with better energy than they did in Friday’s semifinal win, outshooting Clarkson (32-4-5) 6-3 in the period. However, late in the first period, Badger defenseman Mikaela Gardner was called for tripping—a penalty that would prove costly.Twenty-seven seconds into the start of the second period, Clarkson defenseman Savannah Harmon beat Wisconsin goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens for a power-play goal to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead.Midway through the second period, Wisconsin appeared to have had tied the game up at one, but UW forward Emily Clark was called for interference, wiping out the equalizer.”You can pick different moments; looked like we scored a goal but came out of it with a penalty against us and we can sit here and say, ‘if about that’ and ‘if about this,’” Johnson said. “When you get to the finish line, we didn’t do enough things to win the hockey game.”
UW had plenty of chances to tie the game up in the second and third periods, but it was Clarkson that put the game out of reach late in the final stanza as Mercer netted her second goal on a 2-on-1 rush. The Golden Knights would later add an empty-netter to punctuate an impressive team performance.
Clarkson goalie Shea Tiley was fantastic for the Golden Knights, stopping all 41 Badger shots while shutting out the nation’s No. 1 offense.
“I think hockey just has a funny way of humbling you,” junior forward Annie Pankowski said. “When you think you’re doing well and you have all the things going in the right way, it reminds you that not everything is perfect. I’m really proud of this group and we laid it out there … you can’t ask for much more.”
For a senior class that had accomplished so much in their careers but never quite captured a national title, Sunday’s loss was hard to swallow.
“It’s definitely tough. Obviously four years are up, flew by, it was an incredible time,” senior captain Sydney McKibbon said. “But unfortunately when you don’t win your last game it’s a little bit of a disappointment. This is going to sting, definitely, for a while.”
Over the course of the game, UW outshot Clarkson 41-20, but the only score that mattered at the end of the day was 3-0.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow when you lose this game,” Johnson said. “You’re so close to the end, but as time goes on and they reflect on the season, it was a special group. It was a special season; they’re going to have some great memories to reflect on, so I’m certainly proud of that.”
At long last: Wisconsin finally gets over hump with win over Boston College, advances to championship game Sunday afternoon
ST. CHARLES, Mo. — After falling in the semifinals the past three seasons, No. 1 Wisconsin (33-2-4) began the season with an all-in mentality towards a national title. However, late in the game Friday evening, it appeared that the Badgers might find themselves again on the wrong end of a close semifinal game.In a game that appeared to be destined for overtime, senior defenseman Mellissa Channell blasted a shot from the blue-line that sailed past Boston College goalie Katie Burt with just 17 seconds remaining for the game-winner.The Badgers’ 1-0 win over No. 4 Boston College Friday evening gave UW the opportunity to play for the program’s fifth National Championship Sunday afternoon.“In all honesty, I blacked out. I think Annie passed it back to me and I just took a shot, I wasn’t really aiming I was just trying to hit the net, trying to create a rebound or something,” Channell said. “But it hit the perfect corner in the bottom corner and I guess it was a lucky shot.”After UW got the game’s first shot on goal, Boston College followed up with 11 unanswered shots on net. However, the Badgers’ second and third lines helped start a surge that seemed to settle the team back into a rhythm to close out the period. UW carried that momentum throughout the rest of the game.While Wisconsin outshot Boston College 31-10 over the last two periods, both teams had multiple chances to break the stalemate. That was until Channell’s late-game heroics secured the win for UW.“Definitely BC played their best hockey at the beginning of the first,” Badger senior goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens said. “They came out super fast at us, but we were fortunate enough that they didn’t get the bounces they wanted and I think we kept building since the first period. We improved all game long and I think that our best period was definitely the third. I think we grew as the game went on as a team.”
Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson knew the game was going to come down to which team could capitalize on its opportunities first.
“From my seat, I thought it was a real good game,” Johnson said. “Like a bunch of games, whether quarterfinal games or championship games, Frozen Four games, it’s gonna come down to a team getting an opportunity and capitalizing on it and it took almost until the end of the game to capitalize one of ours. I think the team’s excited, I know our seniors are excited, they got over the hurdle and they put themselves in a position to play for the national championship.”
Desbiens stopped all 22 shots that came her way for her NCAA-leading 17th shutout of the season.
“I think as a goalie it’s definitely nice to have a lot of shots and be involved and that’s definitely something that you look forward to,” Desbiens said. “It’s a nice challenge and those low scoring games definitely challenge you more and you need to stay focused because you never know who’s gonna get the bounce.”
Wisconsin will play either Minnesota or Clarkson Sunday afternoon for the National Championship.
“In the past three years we’ve lost in the semifinal game so just getting over that hump,” Channell said. “We always have a joke saying, ‘Make it to the game, make it to the game.’ And this year we are fortunate enough that we actually get to play on Sunday.”