Home > Uncategorized > Badgers skate past Gophers in front of record crowd

Badgers skate past Gophers in front of record crowd

January 29, 2011

Photo by David Stluka

Photo by David Stluka

MADISON, Wis. — It was far from the most graceful move of the night, but Hilary Knight’s celebration following her first period goal Saturday night said it all.

After finding the back of the net just 47 seconds in, Knight “went for it,” doing her best Alexander Ovechkin impression by jumping into the glass behind the goal, before quickly falling to the ice. Knight’s goal, and enthusiastic celebration, electrified the NCAA record crowd of 10,668 at the Kohl Center, setting the tone for top-ranked Wisconsin’s 3-1 win over No. 4 Minnesota.

“We definitely feed off their energy and we’re fortunate to have them,” Knight said. “I fell and made it an interesting celebration, but it was an incredible feeling. You don’t score in front of 10,000 people that often.”

The impressive crowd easily beat out two previous record crowds from the 2009 season. The previous women’s hockey Kohl Center record of 6,085 was set last January when the Badgers hosted Team USA for an exhibition, and the previous NCAA record was 8,263 set last February when Wisconsin defeated Bemidji State, 6-1, to kick off the Camp Randall Hockey Classic.

Having played for Team USA in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Knight and team captain Meghan Duggan are no strangers to large crowds. But to see the largest crowd in NCAA women’s hockey history in their home arena for a game against their border rivals certainly was a special feeling.

“It’s incredible,” Duggan said. “I just got the goosebumps actually thinking about it.

“It creates a great atmosphere in the building and really gets us going for the game. It helped out a lot tonight, I think.”

After Knight’s goal kicked things off less than a minute into the game, linemate Brianna Decker tallied one of the more impressive goals you’ll see. It just so happened to also be the game-winner.

With the Gophers on a power play, Decker got in front of a shot, took the puck on a breakaway, and put it past Minnesota goaltender Noora Raty for the goal.

On a night when the Badgers were boosted by the sheer number of people in attendance, it was Decker’s shorthanded goal that clinched the victory.

“You start with great momentum because of the atmosphere, and that certainly added to it,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “There’s not many games, this being the first one, where they have over 10,000 people watching women’s hockey. We put on a performance for them and came away with a victory.”

Minnesota cut the lead to 2-1 with a shorthanded goal of its own in the second period, when Becky Kortum took the puck away from the Badgers and bounced the puck off the pads of netminder Alex Rigsby and into the net.

Seven minutes later, Carolyne Prevost skated through a pair of defenders and went five hole on Raty to give Wisconsin its two-goal lead back at 3-1.

While that would be the game’s final tally, Minnesota never stopped fighting, giving Wisconsin a battle all the way to the final horn. The Badgers, who maintained their crowd-fueled energy throughout as well, appeared to have sealed it with an empty-netter in the final minutes, but it was negated by an offside call.

The huge crowd erupted as the puck hit the net, and while one of its loudest cheers of the night was for naught, the energy of the 10,668 in attendance helped Wisconsin maintain its energy throughout a tough, physical battle with Minnesota.

For Wisconsin, the timing of the “Fill The Bowl” event could not have been better, either. After taking two points with a shootout win Friday night, the Badgers led by 13 points in the WCHA standings over the second-place Gophers.

With the win Saturday night, UW increased its lead to 16 points, all but clinching the WCHA regular season title. With six games remaining on the schedule, Wisconsin sits just two points from its third WCHA conference championship and its first since the 2006-07 season.

“These five points this weekend is huge for us, but we’ve got to finish off the rest of the season,” Duggan said. “We can’t slow up, let the foot off the gas pedal. We’ve just got to press it down, keep going, and bring ourselves into the playoffs.”

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