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‘Need to rededicate ourselves’

March 13, 2011 Comments off

INDIANAPOLIS — It took little more than three minutes for Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan to sense something wasn’t right about his team Friday against Penn State.

With the Badgers trailing 10-0 in their second round game at Conseco Fieldhouse, he called for an early timeout and made a couple substitutions. As play resumed, Ryan stood in front of senior forward Keaton Nankivil and freshman Josh Gasser.

“I just can’t believe that you can’t compete better than that,” a noticeably frustrated Ryan said to his two underperforming starters.

Two hours later, Nankivil sat in front of his locker fielding questions from reporters. Once again, Wisconsin had made an early exit from the Big Ten tournament, suffering an ugly 36-33 loss to Penn State.

With a week to prepare for the NCAA tournament, Nankivil was faced with the question of what they needed to do to get ready, and whether there was enough time to do so.

“I think we have a lot of guys in here, we need to rededicate ourselves, especially for us seniors,” Nankivil said. “At this point, it’s one-and-done for your college career.

“There better be enough time, because we don’t have much time left.”

Between sitting on the bench early in the game and sitting at his locker following the loss, Nankivil walked off the court along with his teammates, dejected after seeing a solid defensive effort stymied by an awful shooting performance offensively.

When asked after the game how he felt, Nankivil thought of that walk.

“To be honest with you, I walked off the court about as frustrated as I’ve ever been today,” he said.

It was the first time the Badgers had lost consecutive games since a six-game losing streak in January 2009.

On the other side of the room was Gasser, a guard who despite starting for the Badgers, is relatively inexperienced, especially when it comes to postseason play.

For the freshman out of Port Washington, Wis., the question came up about what was going on with the team that could allow them to give up its highest point total in years one game and score its fewest in years the next.

Put simply, he just didn’t know.

According to his head coach, it didn’t have to do with focusing too much on one thing.

“The story of the guy, the coach who asked one of his players how his grades went, and the kid said, three Fs and a D, do you know the answer the coach came back with? He says, “I’ve got the answer for you. You spent way too much time on one class,” said Ryan. “Defensively we couldn’t have done things any worse than we did in our last game. So before you ask did we spend all our time on defense, no, but it might have looked like that.”

Another starter, Tim Jarmusz, remained confident in the Badgers’ ability to come back in a week and begin a strong postseason run.

Despite looking a lot like recent Wisconsin teams that have struggled late in the regular season before making early exits from the postseason, Jarmusz insisted that it would not happen again.

“It’s a new year; it’s not going to be the same, it’s not last year,” he said. “We’re a good team, we can bounce back and we will. I know we will.

“This is a good team with a bunch of good guys. We’ll be out ready to play. This is the last go round for at least the six of us and we’re going to make the most of it.”

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Seniors lead the way as Badgers finish perfect at home

February 28, 2011 Comments off

MADISON, Wis. — With 35 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game, Bo Ryan called a timeout. But with a 14-point lead, the Wisconsin head coach’s decision had nothing to do with game strategy.

As the UW student section chanted, “We want J.P.,” Ryan called for his three senior reserves, who entered in place of the Badgers’ three senior starters. One by one, Tim Jarmusz, Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer received standing ovations from the crowd.

Walking off the court at the Kohl Center for the last time, Leuer hugged Ryan, as the students had switched to “Thank you, seniors.” Taking a seat on the bench, the three seniors got the opportunity to watch Wisconsin’s final offensive possession of its 78-63 victory over Northwestern.

“It hasn’t really set in yet, I don’t think, for me,” Leuer said. “I definitely have a lot of emotions going. It’s just been an unbelievable four years here at the Kohl Center, and I’m definitely going to miss it.”

Just 22 seconds after they had entered, Wisconsin’s other three seniors were given their moment. Like the three starters, Wquinton Smith, Brett Valentyn and J.P. Gavinski walked off the court, one by one, for the last time.

It will not go down as the best game in the careers of the six seniors, but for the last one they’ll play at home, they were happy to come away with the victory. More often than not, that has been the result at the Kohl Center during their four years.

With a home record of 61-6 over four years, the 2011 senior class finished with a winning percentage of better than 91 percent at the Kohl Center. Overall, the Badgers have gone 97-33 over the same stretch, already making Wisconsin’s current seniors the winningest class in school history.

UW finished 16-0 at home this season, marking just the third time in 80 years the Badgers have gone undefeated at home.

“When we’re at the Kohl Center, we don’t plan on losing,” Leuer said. “Ever. This team did that this year, and I think that’s one of our goals.”

But the final score hardly indicates how close Wisconsin was to suffering its first home loss in nearly a year. With 7:14 remaining in the game, a 3-pointer from John Shurna drew Northwestern within three points at 58-55.

Five minutes later, a rare Jordan Taylor turnover allowed the Wildcats to score twice in just 10 seconds to cut the lead from 11 points to seven with 2:22 to go in the game. On the next trip down the court, Nankivil hit a 3-pointer to put the Badgers back up by 10 points and spark an 8-0 Wisconsin run to close out the game.

While the Wisconsin fans may not have shared his confidence, junior point guard Jordan Taylor said afterward that he never believed the outcome was in doubt.

“I just felt like we were always in control, especially the way Jon was playing,” Taylor said.

With the way the first half had gone for the Badgers, the game looked to be an easy UW victory until the Wildcats made their second-half run. While Northwestern shot well throughout, Wisconsin was even better, especially in the game’s first 20 minutes.

UW scored 43 points in the first half matching the second-highest total for the Badgers in a first half during Big Ten play. Wisconsin’s 65.4 shooting percentage marked the team’s best-shooting first half this season and the team’s best-shooting half overall in Big Ten play this season.

Leading by 13 at the break, the Badgers extended it to a 16-point lead over the first three minutes of the second half on six points from Leuer. From there, however, the game’s momentum switched in Northwestern’s favor.

Fueled by their hot shooting from 3-point range, the Wildcats went on a 20-7 run over a nearly 10-minutes stretch. The run was sparked by a 3-pointer from Michael Thompson and capped by Shurna’s big shot that cut the lead to just three points.

For Ryan and the Badgers, the Wildcats’ run was something they expected.

“When you prepare for them, you talk about those kind of runs,” Ryan said. “You really do. I’ve seen them do that to other teams, and the other team gets down, the other team gets a little disjointed. And they’re going to do that at times. They’re going to go through those streaks.”

But with the Kohl Center crowd behind them as they have been so many times over their four years, the Wisconsin seniors — with a little help from Taylor and freshman guard Josh Gasser — held off Northwestern to ensure their perfect mark at home this season.

Even then, after all 16 home games had been won, Ryan made no mention of it to his team.

“It never was in a conversation that we had,” he said. “All I said after the game was we closed out the home portion of the schedule. Now we still have games to play. But I’ve never talked about it.

“They can read, they listen to their classmates. They know what’s going on. But we’ve never talked about a streak.”

Alvarez should be commended for spring game plan

February 22, 2011 Comments off

Mark your calendars now. This year’s spring football game on April 23 is a can’t-miss event for any Wisconsin fan.

Already a popular event each year, the 2011 version of the spring game promises to be better than ever, especially considering the anticipated competition at quarterback. Credit the philanthropic thinking of UW athletic director Barry Alvarez and head football coach Bret Bielema for the improvement.

For the first time, the UW Athletic Department will charge admission to the event, something Alvarez and Bielema have discussed doing for years. The cost will be $5 per ticket, with all proceeds going to the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the School of Nursing,” said Katharyn May, dean of the School of Nursing. “Fundraising right now is a tough sell, and the nursing school has been working on raising sufficient funding to build a new home for more than a decade.

“The state of Wisconsin needs this nursing school to grow. We’re one of the best in the country, but we do not have any more room. We can’t put any more students in any more classes because we don’t have seats for them.”

Alvarez announced the ticketing plan Monday afternoon at Wisconsin’s weekly head coaches press conference. In doing so, he also shared a couple stories about how the idea came about.

During his time at Iowa under legendary head coach Hayden Fry, the Hawkeyes annual spring game featured free admission, much like its Wisconsin counterpart has for years. Despite no cost, attendance at the event remained low.

But Fry had an idea to get more fans to show up.

“I can remember Hayden saying, ‘You know, if it’s free, people think there’s no value in it. If you just charge $2, we’ll increase the crowd,’” Alvarez said. “Sure enough, that’s what happened.”

Last spring, Iowa drew 23,502 fans for its annual scrimmage, compared to the crowd of 23,567 that watched the Cardinal squad defeat the White, 25-3, at Camp Randall Stadium on the same sunny afternoon. But those numbers still put Wisconsin well behind the leaders nationally, which include a couple Big Ten rivals.

At Nebraska, the 2010 Red-White game was watched by 77,936 fans. In Columbus, despite poor weather, the Buckeyes drew a crowd of 65,223 at Ohio Stadium.

Football is by far the most popular sport in the United States, and the growing attendance for spring football games — which mean precious little in the grand scheme of things — is the perfect example of such popularity. With tickets being in such high demand, it should come as no surprise that so many schools now charge for these annual intrasquad contests.

What is remarkable, however, is the decision of the UW Athletic Department to charge admission without keeping any of the proceeds for itself.

“This is about us being a part of the campus and us supporting campus,” Alvarez said. “We try to be good partners. We get great cooperation on campus, and this is one way for us to give back and say ‘Thank you,’ and also support the campus.”

Now you may be wondering how Alvarez and Bielema decided the game would benefit the School of Nursing, considering how many other programs on campus could be equally deserving. As it turns out, it was a matter of excellent timing.

On the very same day that the two had decided to charge admission and contribute the proceeds to one of the departments at the University of Wisconsin, the School of Nursing held an event with Alvarez in attendance.

In talking with May and a number of others in the nursing program, Alvarez learned of their excitement regarding a capital project that would provide a new home for the School of Nursing and allow it to increase enrollment by 30 percent.

“One of them said to me, ‘So what are you going to do for us, coach?’” Alvarez recalled. “And I said, ‘You know what, I’ve got something for you.’ And so we shared with them what our plan was, (and) they became very excited about it. I think it will be a win-win situation for them and also for us.”

Coming off their most successful season in more than a decade, which saw the Badgers go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000, it would be safe to assume the annual spring game would see a jump in attendance. Even with a cost of $5 for admission, Wisconsin could expect its biggest crowd yet for the Cardinal-White scrimmage.

That being the case, it also would have been easy for Alvarez to charge the money and take the proceeds for the Athletic Department, which could use some added revenue to keep up with the other major Division I programs in the nation.

Instead, Alvarez and Bielema saw the opportunity to do something bigger than themselves with the spring game. In allowing the School of Nursing to run the event and collect the proceeds, the football program will have a direct hand in furthering the education of some of the university’s best and brightest students, including a number of its athletes.

Despite being in the midst of the greatest nursing shortage in recent history, the School of Nursing has been forced to turn away three students for every one admitted, making it the most competitive program on campus. With the added fundraising now available through the spring football game, enrollment could increase within two years.

If everything goes according to plan, with high attendance at the spring football game and additional funding from the state of Wisconsin, the School of Nursing hopes to break ground this fall, with the new building to open by Fall 2013.

Just how close are they to the necessary funding?

“Within striking distance,” May said. “My job is (to get) $17.3 million, and we are at 13.3 right now. … Nurses do not grow up to become wealthy people by and large, so we are relying on powerful people like Coach Alvarez to help us get the word out.”

Well, now that the word is out, it’s up to Wisconsin fans to come through and uphold their end of the bargain.

Can you spare $5 to support the School of Nursing while spending a beautiful spring afternoon watching a football game with thousands of your closest friends?

If you can, I’ll see you there.

Badgers upset No. 1 Buckeyes … (Again)

February 14, 2011 Comments off

MADISON — The Kohl Center, where streaks come to die.

One of the 17,230 fans packed inside the building on Dayton Street made a sign Saturday with the above statement. Another read “24-1.”

After a hard-fought 40 minutes, they were right on both accounts.

Behind an incredible second-half performance by junior guard Jordan Taylor, one that came when his team needed it most, Wisconsin handed No. 1 Ohio State its first loss, 71-67. With the win, the UW became just the eighth school since 1969-70 to defeat the AP No. 1 team in both football and basketball during the same academic year.

“It’s Madison, Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan of the upset. “It’s been said a lot of times about what this campus is like, what this school is all about. … Like I was telling people before, I think the basketball thing is a little different in February with Ohio State being No. 1.

“I don’t know about football rankings, and Ohio State was No. 1, I understand that. I just think in our sport, to be [24-0], you’ve had to win in November, December, January and into February. So, I kind of like ours because it just happened. I loved football’s because I was there at the game. It’s just all good for the school.”

Last time a school upset the nation’s No. 1 team in both sports? Florida, in 2006-07, also over Ohio State.

Heading into the matchup, Keaton Nankivil and the Badgers talked about looking to get off to a hot start and maintain a high level of intensity throughout, something that worked tremendously for the football team back on October 16.

Instead, the basketball version took a little different trajectory.

After a highlight montage from that victory at Camp Randall pumped up the crowd just before tipoff, Wisconsin jumped out to a fairly hot start, building a 12-6 lead through the first 6 1/2 minutes of play. Unlike the football team, however, that hot start did not translate into a dominant wire-to-wire victory.

In fact, the Badgers fell behind by as many as 15 points with 13:21 to play in the second half, stunning the home crowd. The next trip down the floor, trailing 47-32, Taylor hit a floater in the lane that sparked a 15-0 run to tie it.

“You have to give Wisconsin a ton of credit,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “We got that lead and had some great looks, I thought, but it just kind of went in and out on us. It flipped, we started missing shots and they started making shots.”

Just like that, in a matter of four minutes, the Badgers took what looked to be a sure blowout and flipped it into the type of back-and-forth battle it had been throughout the first half. Only, they weren’t done there.

After dropping behind once again by four points with 7:40 to play, the Badgers tied it at 55 just 42 seconds later on a Mike Bruesewitz 3-pointer. Over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Wisconsin reeled off nine unanswered for its largest lead of the game at 62-55.

Now, not only was Ryan’s squad not going to be blown out, it was in control against the nation’s best. And while Taylor’s 21 second-half points stand out, it was a true team effort that got them there.

“When we were down, I don’t think things really changed,” Taylor said. “They made a run, and we knew we had a run in us. … We eventually we started getting stops and started making plays and everybody made a big play. Not one person didn’t.”

Ohio State kept things interesting over the game’s final minutes, but with the raucous crowd behind it, Wisconsin would not relinquish its lead.

Despite their best efforts, William Buford‘s 21 points and Jared Sullinger‘s 19 point and 12 rebounds just weren’t enough. Despite all the talk surrounding Sullinger as a national player of the year candidate, he and Buford could not do it alone.

“Our game plan [was] to kind of limit his touches, because when he gets it down there, he is pretty much unstoppable,” said Jon Leuer of Sullinger. “It is hard to score if you don’t have the ball, and that is what we were trying to do with him.”

Taylor, who struggled in the first half, finished with a game-high 27 points and seven assists against just one turnover. Leuer, Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser joined him in scoring double digits, with 27 of the points between the four coming from beyond the arc.

As the clock ticked to zero, fans stormed the court, mobbing the Badgers for the second time in four months following a thrilling victory over the Buckeyes.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Taylor said. “We were at the football game when they beat Ohio State and a few of us got to go down on the field. Just to be in another court rusher game like that, similar to Duke last year, it was unbelievable.

“It’s something you remember forever.”

 

Ready to upset No. 1 Ohio State

February 11, 2011 Comments off

MADISON – Watching from the packed and highly energized stands at Camp Randall Stadium, one play in particular jumped out at Keaton Nankivil during the Oct. 16 football game between No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State.

It’s a play that stood out to everyone else, too, as David Gilreath‘s 97-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff set the tone for the Badgers’ 31-18 upset and was voted play of the year by UW fans.

“Gilreath returning the kickoff, to me shows right off the bat they’re ready to play,” Nankivil said. “They’re not going to back down from anybody and they kind of made that first move. Secondly, the intensity throughout the entire game. I don’t think Wisconsin in that game really let up or gave Ohio State a chance to keep chipping away at it.”

Nankivil was joined at that memorable victory by each of his teammates, and they all got a great lesson in stepping up to a challenge.

When they host No. 1 Ohio State tomorrow at the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin basketball team will have a chance to show its ability to rise to the occasion as well.

To be successful, they’ll likely need to do the two things that most impressed Nankivil about the football team in that upset.

“In a little different fashion,” Nankivil said. “But those are two important things to what we can do against Ohio State as far as hopefully making that first move and hopefully keeping the intensity high. I think those are two things that would really help us out.”

Of course, head coach Bo Ryan‘s players are no strangers to big games, either. Just last season, Wisconsin – unranked at the time – knocked off No. 6 Duke, handing the Blue Devils their first-ever loss in the 10-year history of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

In that game, much like the football team did against Ohio State in October, the Badgers jumped out to a hot start with an early 19-9 lead and never let up. In fact, UW never trailed against Duke en route to the thrilling 73-69 victory.

For senior forward Jon Leuer, that hot start is exactly what sticks out in his mind about the big nonconference victory.

“We got off to a great start and we were able to knock some shots down early,” Leuer said. “Against a team like Ohio State, you can’t get in a hole, otherwise it’s tough to dig your way out. That’s the main thing is just to get off to a good start. But if you don’t, you have to be able to handle that adversity and climb back from it.”

Typically, the mentality heading into a big game such as Saturday’s is one of treating it like any other game. Ryan’s team does its best to maintain the same approach before and after each game, so as to avoid getting to high on any win and too low and any loss.

That being the case, the Badgers still recognize the opportunity presented by the matchup against the top-ranked team in the nation.

“Any time you get the No. 1 that’s kind of a once in a career type of thing,” junior guard Jordan Taylor said. “I don’t think a lot of guys get to play against the No. 1 team in the country, especially at home. I expect it to be fun, and loud, and we’ll be ready to go.”

With the opportunity comes the challenge, and the Buckeyes certainly provide a formidable one for Wisconsin.

In order to come away with the big victory, the Badgers will need to effectively limit freshman Jared Sullinger, a national player of the year candidate, while being sure not to forget about guys like William Buford, Aaron Craft, David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

Even if they can do all that, things will not come easily on the offensive end, either. Ohio State’s length and athleticism could cause plenty of problems for Wisconsin.

And finally, there’s that unbeatable factor, as OSU enters the matchup with a flawless 24-0 record. But that should only serve to further motivate the Badgers.

“Nobody else has been able to beat them, and we’d be the only team to have proven that we can beat them,” Leuer said. “So there’s a little extra incentive, but any time you step on the court you have the same motivations. You’re just hungry and you want to win, and that’s how we’re going to play.”

 

Evans puts on show in victory over Boilermakers

February 3, 2011 Comments off

MADISON — As usual, Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor dominated the Badgers’ stat sheet Tuesday night against the Boilermakers.

But on a night when a blizzard turned the University of Wisconsin campus into a snow globe, it was Wisconsin’s lone Arizona native that stole the spotlight in the 66-59 victory over Purdue.

Sophomore swingman Ryan Evans delivered by far his best performance of the season, and one that ranks right up there among the best in his young career.

Something seemed to spark Evans on the night, as he continued to improve as the game went along. When asked about it, he attributed his energy to teammate Wquinton Smith and UW Chancellor Biddy Martin.

“It’s been a rough year for me,” Evans said. “But [my coaches and teammates] continuing to believe in me, I knew that something had to get me going. I think one of the big things in the second half was Q — Q got in a little toss up with [Lewis] Jackson — and Biddy, I don’t know if Biddy’s in here but Biddy announcing that we don’t have school tomorrow, that got the fans going some.

“It felt real good, and hopefully I just can continue.”

Evans shot 5-of-9 on the night for 10 points — his fifth career double-digit performance and first of the season — while grabbing one rebound and one steal. But the numbers on the box score hardly do Evans’ performance justice.

After scoring four points in nine first-half minutes, Evans hit three of the biggest shots of the night in the second half.

With his team trailing by six with 10 minutes to go, Evans slammed home a lob from Taylor, electrifying the crowd and completely changing the momentum of the game. But that dunk was only the beginning.

“Any time you can get a guy who can get the crowd off its feet like Ryan can — that dunk was big,” Taylor said. “It was probably almost perfect timing. It couldn’t get any better than that, it got the crowd back into it.”

With the crowd back behind them, the Badgers battled the Boilermakers in a back-and-forth game over the final 10 minutes, with a handful of plays by Evans putting Wisconsin over the top.

In the final minute, as UW trailed by one following a layup by Purdue guard D.J. Byrd, Evans got the ball just inside the lane and without hesitation, pulled up for the two-point jumper. As it went through with 50 seconds remaining, Evans gave the Badgers the lead back, and one they would not relinquish.

“Those are the shots that he can hit,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “That’s a very high percentage shot for him. So it wasn’t a surprise. If you look at the baskets he made last year, those are the types of shots that he shoots a very high percentage on.

“Looks good coming through the bottom of the net, because that means it makes the scoreboard move.”

With two big second half shots to his credit, Evans had more than done his part, especially considering he entered the game averaging just 2.7 points per game on the year and 0.8 points per contest in Big Ten play. But he still was not done.

After a Josh Gasser free throw gave Wisconsin a four-point lead with 31 seconds to play, Evans took the ball away from E’Twaun Moore on the other end. Evans’ steal set up a pair of Taylor free throws, which all but sealed the deal.

Finally, in a fitting end that he could not have scripted better himself, Evans delivered the game’s final points to give the Badgers the 66-59 victory.

Following a long rebound off a Moore missed three, Taylor found Evans streaking to the basket all alone. Once again, the crowd erupted as Evans threw down an emphatic breakaway dunk.

“We’ve been talking all year round about how we have guys that people might not think twice about just because they might not be the big names,” Taylor said. “Ryan, we’ve been saying what he can give to this team all year long. It was just a little show tonight, he can probably even add from there.”

 

Badgers skate past Gophers in front of record crowd

January 29, 2011 Comments off

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.”