MADISON, Wis. — Opening game upset is a phrase the Wisconsin women’s hockey team is becoming a little too familiar with.
This time, it was Robert Morris who stunned the Badgers, 3-1, Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center. It was Wisconsin’s third loss in their first four opening games of series this season.
“It’s nice to come out with a win,” Colonials’ freshman forward Jennifer Kindret said. “Everyone thinks we were coming in as an underdog, but we showed that we can play with the big dogs.”
After both teams played a scoreless opening stanza, Robert Morris took a 2-0 lead after the second period.
However, the period did not start well for the Colonials, as Wisconsin dictated play early on. With a little over eight minutes gone in the period, Robert Morris got caught with several tired players on the ice, forcing Colonials’ coach Nate Handrahan to take a time out.
It proved to be a brilliant decision by the Robert Morris skipper, as the Colonials regrouped and shortly after got a big goal from Kindret.
On the play, the second line of Robert Morris went to work cycling the puck in the offensive zone. Off the forecheck, sophomore forward Brianna Delaney worked the puck to the right faceoff dot. She then fed Kindret, who redirected the pass through Ruegsegger’s legs.
“In these kinds of games, you can’t always get the pretty goals,” said Kindret, who was put on a line with Delaney last weekend in attempt to balance out the Colonials’ scoring. “We just started playing together in Maine, and things have been clicking so far.”
Seven minutes later, Robert Morris made it 2-0 on a goal that proved to be the turning point in the game. With five minutes left in the period, Delaney took a lazy tripping penalty, giving the Badgers a power play and a chance to tie the game. However, the Colonials locked up defensively and killed off the penalty.
Delaney then stormed onto the ice out of the box and joined the Robert Morris forecheck. She dug the puck out of the left corner to set up Kindret, who fired home her second goal of the game.
“I knew had to come out (and do something) because I got that penalty,” Delaney said. “Jenn always gets right out in front for me.”
Wisconsin finally got on the board with just under 10:30 left in the game on a goal by defenseman Saige Pacholok. On the play, sophomore forward Brooke Ammerman took the puck behind the net and centered Pacholok. The freshman snuck in down low from her point and ripped a shot underneath junior goaltender Deneca Butterfield’s blocker side.
“Between periods, both Brooke and I talked about how the slot was wide open,” Pacholok said. “I just called for the pass and she hit me on the tape.”
Wisconsin got a chance to tie the game when they were awarded a power play with just over two minutes left, but Robert Morris again clamped down and blocked several shots, before Colonials’ junior forward Sara O’Malley fired the puck the length of the rink into an empty Badgers’ net to seal the game with 47 seconds left.
In the loss, Wisconsin (5-4-0, 5-3-0 WCHA) has little to blame but themselves, as they struggled to regain the energy they generated last weekend while sweeping Minnesota. All afternoon, the Badgers fought themselves, playing too individualistic hockey.
“I think our energy level just wasn’t where it needed to be,” Wisconsin coach Tracey DeKeyser said. “But I also think we didn’t take advantage of our defensemen enough, because they were taking away the options down low.”
Meanwhile Robert Morris (4-5-0, 0-0-0 CHA) played like a team that had nothing to lose. The Colonials were standing on their bench the whole game and showed tremendous determination to execute their second big upset of a WCHA team this season. They were backstopped by tremendous effort from Butterfield, who finished with 28 saves.
“She has given us a chance to win in every game except one against BU,” Handrahan said. “She had big shoes to fill this year, but everyone had question marks about her except us. I knew she was a quality kid and she gives us a chance every night.”
The two teams will rematch tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m.