MANKATO, Minn. — Entering Friday night’s game at Minnesota State, the Wisconsin Badgers knew they would be in for a fight. And after a spirited seesaw battle through the first two periods, the Badgers used their third-period firepower to put away MSU in a 4-1 win at All Seasons Arena.
After Wisconsin dominated every facet of the game in the opening frame, Badger coach Mark Johnson knew the Mavericks (3-2-0, 2-1-0 WCHA) would come out firing in the second. The Badgers (4-1-0, 2-1-0) outshot Minnesota State 15-2 in the first period, and all they had to show for it was a single Sharon Cole goal.
“Usually, the goalies like the work,” Johnson said. “Those games are the ones that scare me the most.”
Johnson’s premonition came true just over two minutes into the second period when Mavericks’ impact freshman Maggie Fisher buried her fifth goal of the season and tied the game at one apiece.
But the Badgers have impact players of their own, and Sara Bauer, the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year, proved again why she carries that title. Four minutes after MSU tied the score, with the game’s momentum hanging in the balance; the speedy winger took a Heidi Kletzien pass at her own blue line and raced down the left boards. With a Maverick defenseman clinging to her and eventually hauling her down, Bauer went to her trusty backhand from the seat of her breezers. She fooled Minnesota State goalie Brit Kehler for her fourth goal of the season to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead and the eventual game winner.
“Can’t say that we practice that one,” Bauer said. “(Jinelle) Zaugg did a great job of going to the net and taking an extra player with her.”
For Kehler, it was the only goal she gave up in the second period. She was the reason that the Mavericks kept the game close heading to the final period. Mixed in with the routine save were a more than a couple jaw-droppers, saves that MSU head coach Jeff Vizenor said gave his team a chance early on. The Mavericks were outshot 37-11 overall.
“She made some huge saves, especially in the first period,” Vizenor said. “That opening period, we let them dictate play a little too much. We struggled, but she made some key saves.”
At 13:52 of the third period, Wisconsin was finally able to add the all-important insurance goal. Another impact freshman, the Badgers’ Tia Hanson, attacked the net and fired her shot high over Kehler’s glove. The shot clanked off the lower portion of the crossbar but was ruled a goal by officials, extending the Badger lead to 3-1.
“That was a big goal because there was a gap there where the Mavericks were really putting some pressure on us,” Johnson said. “We weren’t reacting very well, but for the young kid to come out and get that goal was huge. I think there was a big sigh of relief on our bench.”
Cole added the final Badger tally at 19:04 after Kehler was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. For the game, the sophomore from Mitchell, Man. stopped 33 shots en route to her first loss this season. Meghan Horras earned the victory for Wisconsin, making just 10 saves along the way.
Both teams were unsuccessful on the power-play with MSU going 0-for-4 and the Badgers 0-for-7, including a 5-on-4 advantage in the first period that lasted five minutes after the Mavericks’ Noelle Needham was assessed a major penalty and ejected for checking from behind. Wisconsin’s inability to capitalize kept the game close and gave Minnesota State a boost of confidence heading into the series finale Saturday.
“I’m proud of our kids, I think we played a pretty darn good game,” Vizenor said. “If that’s the No. 2 team in the country, I think we’re a pretty solid team too.”
Face-off for game two of the series is scheduled for 3:07 p.m. Saturday at All Seasons Arena.