Local Women Make Good
Wisconsin featured three key players from New England, each playing in front of family and friends in Boston’s Agganis Arena. All three had an outstanding pair of games.
Meghan Duggan, from Danvers, Mass., finished the weekend with one goal and four assists, Hanover, New Hampshire’s Hilary Knight had three goals and three assists, and captain Erika Lawler, from Fitchburg, Mass., had seven points on two goals and five assists.
Lawler tried to downplay the significance. “It doesn’t matter where you are playing or who you are playing in front of. If you get caught up in that, it is likely you won’t have much success. We could have been playing in Alabama.”
But when asked how many people from Fitchburg made the trek down the Mass. Pike to see the games, Lawler just beamed a smile, and Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson answered for her: “Who wasn’t here from Fitchburg?”
Johnson had nothing but positives to say about Lawler.
“When I get asked how to be a good hockey player, I just say, ‘Look at Erika.’ She creates energy for the team. She has a passion for playing, and has fun doing it. If you had a lockerroom full of players like her, it would make my job very easy.”
Agganis Arena Home Away From Home
Wisconsin had no problems getting used to Agganis Arena, which normally plays host to the Boston University men’s hockey team, scoring ten goals and only allowing one in the two games.
Both the Terrier men and the Badger women have been terrific in this season, both spending significant time ranked number one in the country in the respective USCHO.com Poll, and sometimes embarrassing opponents. Even the color schemes are similar: scarlet and white for BU, cardinal and white for Wisconsin.
“The main difference is the size of the ice sheet,” said Mark Johnson. “This is not quite an Oympic-sized ice sheet, which is what we are used to. But what you have here is a wonderful facility, from the weight rooms to the video facilities. I’ve been to the Frozen Four in each of the last four seasons, and it gets better and better each year.”
Another benefit to playing in Agganis: the BU hockey team’s association with alum and 1980 Olympic hero Mike Eruzione. Johnson and Eruzione were teammates on the gold medal-winning 1980 ice hockey team, and were reunited this weekend.
“I even got Eruzione to pay for a meal last night,” Johnson joked.
Specialty Teams Not So Special
The biggest problem on the weekend for Mercyhurst appeared to be specialty teams.
All four of Minnesota’s goals against Mercyhurst came with a Laker in the penalty box, and Wisconsin scored both a power play as well as a shorthanded goal in the crucial second period.
In both Mercyhurst’s semifinal and championship games, the Lakers seemed to carry the play in the first period, which could be explained by neither opponent knowing too much about the skaters from Erie.
“I consider Mercyhurst a very deserving opponent,” said Johnson. “Maybe people haven’t seen them play, but coaches who have coached against them know they are well-prepared, talented team.”
The difference between the two games was that on Friday, the Lakers managed to capitalize on the early pressure, carrying a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. On Sunday, the score was 0-0 after the first period, and the Badgers scored three times in the second.
“We thought we could exploit their defense, and we did in the first period,” said Mercyhurst head coach Michael Sisti. “But giving up the goals in bunches took the wind out of us.”
“Vetter is a great goaltender, and I think you’ve got to get on her early,” agreed Mercyhurst’s Meghan Agosta. “We had some chances that we didn’t quite bury. I thought she kept her team in it during some key chances where we could have gotten one or two. She was right there to stop us.”
Good Vetter Best
It was only fitting that the championship game be decided as a shutout for Wisconsin, as goalie Jessie Vetter holds the NCAA record for most shutouts in a season as well as in a career. With the 2009 5-0 title game, Vetter finishes her career with 39 shutouts, 14 of them this year.
“That’s the way to go out,” she said, of the title win. “No bad feelings, no tears. Just a win and celebration.”
Vetter had quite a weekend, as she won her third National Championship, being named the Most Outstanding Player in the process. And on Saturday she won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for the year’s best women’s ice hockey player. She becomes the first player to win the Kazmaier, MOP, and National Championship in the same year.
“I like Boston,” Vetter quipped.
In her four years, Vetter played in 12 postseason games, compiling a record of 11-1, and allowing just 10 goals in that time. In her three title seasons of 2006, 2007, and 2009, she allowed just 3 goals total in the nine NCAA playoff games.
Meghan Agosta, Junior Forward, Mercyhurst
Erika Lawler, Senior Forward, Wisconsin
Hilary Knight, Sophomore Forward, Wisconsin
Alycia Matthews, Senior Defender, Wisconsin
Malee Windmeier, Sophomore Defender, Wisconsin
Jessie Vetter, Senior Goaltender, Wisconsin
Most Outstanding Player: Vetter