St. Cloud, MN – It doesn’t get any easier for the St. Cloud State University Women’s hockey team as they prepare to host the #1-ranked University of Wisconsin at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center this weekend. The Badgers have won six of their last seven games with the only blemish being a 2-1 overtime loss to Ohio State.
” We love the giants coming in to play” said SCSU coach Steve Macdonald. “That’s why we are in this league. We’ll welcome them in any week. They are an extremely talented team and #1 for a reason. For our young players to have Wisconsin coming to town it’s a great opportunity for them to keep learning.”
SCSU Huskies (3-7-1 ) vs Wisconsin Badgers (6-2-0 )
Last Time Out
The Huskies earned 4.5 points with a win and overtime tie vs Bemidji State University on January 15/16. the Huskies earned three points with a 3-1 win on Friday and 1.5 points with an overtime tie and a shootout win by Bemidji that was vacated due to an incorrect application of the shootout rules. The shootout was conducted as a sudden-victory event as opposed to a three-round event which was incorrect. As a result of being vacated, the league awarded each team 1.5 standings points.
On Friday, the Huskies yielded the first goal to Bemidji and then rattled off three straight including an empty-net goal in the 3-1 win. Emma Gentry scored the game-winning goal and Emma Polusny stopped 33 of 34 shots in the win.
On Saturday, the Huskies charged out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Taylor Lind and Emma Gentry only to see BSU respond with two second period goals to send the game to overtime. Scoreless after the 3×3 overtime, the game will go down officially as a tie.
The Badgers last played on January 15/16 facing the then #1-ranked University of Minnesota on home ice. The Badgers earned a convincing weekend sweep by 5-0 and 6-3 scores. On Friday it was all UW as Wisconsin scored 8:26 into the contest and never looked back in the 5-0 shutout. The Badgers had scoring from five different players and a shutout from Kennedy Blair in the win. In the rematch, a game tied 2-2 early in the second period was busted open by the Badgers scoring the next four of five goals en route to a 6-3 win. Leading scorers Daryl Watts and Brette Pettet each had two goals and Kennedy Blair stopped 23 of 26 shots.
Head to Head
Wisconsin holds an all-time advantage of 84-8-2 over SCSU. SCSU is 0-5-0 in the last five, 0-10-0 in the last 10, and 0-20-0 in the last 20. The last win over the Badgers was on February 20, 2015, with the Huskies gaining a 2-1 win. The team last met on February 1/2, 2020 with Wisconsin winning by 5-0 and 11-1 scores.
University of Wisconsin Notes
This is another strong Badger squad dominated by high-performing upperclassmen including two of the top ten point producers in the WCHA in senior, Daryl Watts (7-6-13), junior Sophie Shirley (3-8-11), and senior Brette Pettet (4-4-8). They also feature two of the top-scoring defenseman in the league in junior Nicole LaMantia (1-6-7) and senior Grace Bowlby (0-6-6). Add to that, one of the top goaltenders in the league in senior Kennedy Blair who is 2nd in the conference in goals against (1.38) and save percentage (.952) and you have a very formidable team.
At even strength, the team is dominating its opponents outscoring them by a +14 differential so far this season and particularly in the third period only allowing their opponents one goal all season and outscoring them 12-1.
However, on special teams, they are surprisingly not as formidable on the power play with an 11.5% success rate. The penalty kill however has been strong killing 16 of 18 opportunities.
It’s not surprising they have the top winning percentage in the league scoring 3.12 goals per game.
St. Cloud State University Notes
Despite being outscored 31-16 so far this season and allowing 2.82 goals per game, they are getting strong performances out of their goaltenders, Emma Polusny (.924 SV% / 2.93 GAA) and Sanni Ahola (.928 SV% / 2.66 GAA).
On special teams, the power play needs work as they are 2 for 31 (6.5%). The penalty kill, however, has been very strong killing 29 of 30 opportunities for a 96.7% success rate.
The Huskies do have some firepower up front with a number of players that just need to get untracked. Through nine games, junior forward, Jennina Nyland leads the squad with 3 goals and 3 assist for 6 points and 34 shots on goal. Freshman, Emma Gentry, an impact first-year player has 4 goals and 1 assist for five points in eight games. She currently ranks 6th in freshman scoring despite playing two less games than the leaders. She was named WCHA Rookie of the Week for her two-goal performance vs Bemidji. Sophomores, Klara Hymlarova, Olivia Cvar and Taylor Lind can also bury the puck. Lind, also got untracked last weekend scoring twice vs Bemidji. Senior Laura Kluge has one goal and one assist but can add offense and needs to place the puck on the net more often.
The defense is led by seniors Kenzie Wylie and Hannah Bates and juniors Olivia Hanson and Taytum Geier who have played well on the defensive side of things. However, due to an upper-body injury, Hanson will be out of the lineup this weekend and the Huskies will be skating with six defensemen as opposed to the normal seven.
This is a huge challenge for the Huskies who have not defeated the Badgers in six seasons. With eleven upperclassmen, this is an experienced Wisconsin squad and the Huskies need to play a nearly perfect game to defeat one of the top teams in the country. Five-on-five play will be the key and the Huskies need to forecheck hard, stay on top of the puck and try to slow down players like Watts, Shirley, and Pettet. The goaltenders have been solid all season for SCSU but they’ll have to be exemplary in this match-up.
Not an easy task, but SCSU head coach Steve Macdonald understands they need to be better on offense. “We are focusing on our low offense – creating more offense against Wisconsin and then also our defensive zone play trying to minimize their offensive zone time and creating turnovers,” said Macdonald. “We expect from them a team that is a very high puck protection team that has some really high-skilled forwards with some speed upfront. For us, our players have done a good job in terms of our structure in the neutral zone and controlling more of that space which is critical against Wisconsin. We can create some offense off our forecheck and it can be a strength of ours.”
The line of Taylor Lind, Emma Gentry, and Olivia Cvar has produced seven goals in the last seven games. In order to have success against Wisconsin Lind said “We have to go in confident and know we are a good team. We have to play our type of game and not let them play their game. We are used to the big sheet and that’s something they are not quite used to. We need to take advantage of that.”
On this top-scoring line, Olivia Cvar summed it up by saying ” We all have the same mindset. We like to get into the corners and play the rough game and create opportunities for each other.”
They’ll need a lot of that vs the Badgers.