MADISON, Wisc. – It was a fraught first 50 minutes for Wisconsin in front of a sold-out crowd on Friday night as they peppered the Cornell net without being able to break through.
But once ended the drought at 11:14 of the third period, the floodgates opened for the Badgers. Senior Sarah Nurse scored just four minutes later and junior Annie Pankowski added an empty-netter with :51 seconds left in the game and the Badgers came away with a 3-1 win.
Wisconsin finished the contest with 54 shots on goal and a total of 104 shots taken. Cornell goalie Paula Voorheis was superb in net for the Big Red and was helped by 24 blocks the defense tallied in front of her.
“Paula was tremendous and came up with a ton of big saves for us when we needed it – and we needed it quite a bit. It’s a total team game and you need all parts of it and tonight she was there for us,” said Cornell coach Doug Derraugh.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that a talented Wisconsin team has struggled to pot a goal despite dominating shots and possession. Last week the Badgers lost to No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth after out-shooting them 20-3 in the first period without netting a goal.
Badger coach Mark Johnson has often spoken in post-game about how the puck bounces and he’s a firm believer that all those things even out over the course of a season. In the meantime, Wisconsin players have to work on staying loose, not getting frustrated and sticking to the game plan.
“When you’ve been around hockey long enough, you run into these types of games where you play really well. The key is we just kept telling the players not to get frustrated, but to keep attacking and keep pressuring them and eventually you hope one goes in. The first goal wasn’t going to be a pretty goal probably, some kind of garbage goal. Look at the goaltender’s eyes and get traffic and track the bounce,” said Johnson.
In addition to trying to fight off frustration, the players work on keeping each other motivated and confident.
“We’re a good team and we know that. When we come out in games and the puck’s not going in the net, we know it’s going to go in eventually. To not get too frustrated on the ice is really important,” said Nurse.
Wisconsin owned possession during the game, even during Cornell’s two power plays. The Badgers controlled the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone, but struggled to get much dangerous in on Voorheis as the Big Red defense crowded around the goal mouth.
The Badgers had an extended zone possession near the end of the second period, saving the puck from being cleared and really building up to the net. In perhaps a telling move about the reputation of Wisconsin’s power play, Cornell captain Micah Hart laid on top of a puck just outside the crease to draw a delay of game penalty and give her teammates – and goalie – a much needed breather.
After a power play in which the Badgers held the zone the entire 2:00 minutes, but couldn’t score, Wellhausen finally broke through, swatting home a rebound with about eight minutes left in the game. It was the Badgers’ 48th shot on goal and they had Cornell exhausted and looking for a break.
If Wellhausen’s was the garbage goal, then Nurse’s was the antidote. She nabbed the puck heading into the zone and said she had a choice to dump or carry it in. She felt she had the edge on her defender and headed to the net, though she had no clear shot on net. When she cut across the crease, she wrapped the puck around Voorheis and gave Wisconsin a 2-0 advantage.
It was the first time these two teams faced each other and Derraugh thought it was a wake-up call for his team in terms of pace and the speed of the game.
“Hopefully we’re just a little bit sharper with the puck, a little bit sharper overall and a little bit stronger, I thought we got knocked off a lot of pucks tonight and we just need to be a bit better in those areas,” said Derraugh.
The teams return to the ice on Saturday at 8 p.m.