MADISON, Wis. — Jan. 5 proved to be quite a homecoming for the United States Olympic womens team.
Of the American roster headed to Vancouver in February, seven players have ties to University of Wisconsin (including current Badgers forwards Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan).
Tuesday night at the Kohl Center the ex-Badgers played a starring role in the surreal experience of taking on their former team, contributing to a 9-0 victory over Wisconsin.
It was an awesome atmosphere as the fans at Wisconsin always are, USA and former Badger forward Erika Lawler said. It just shows how much the fans here in Madison are supporting both the Badgers and Team USA.
Team USA opened the scoring five minutes in when forward Kelli Stack stole the puck from a Badgers defender. Stack, who was in alone on Wisconsin goaltender Alannah McCready, deked to the right, and then pulled the puck on her backhand for the goal.
Then defenseman Lisa Chesson made it 2-0 five minutes later on a low point blast. Shortly after, Knight made it 3-0 USA on gorgeous tic-tac-toe play.
Forward Jenny Potter took the puck from the half-boards and fed the puck down low to Monique Lamoureax. Lamoureax one-touched the puck back to Potter, who immediately fed Knight in front. Knight then calmed buried the puck over McCreadys glove.
People think I might not be watching but Im keeping up to date with their scores, Knight said of her former and future team. I am excited to come back next year . . . I think we will be a dominating force.
Former Wisconsin goaltender Jessie Vetter played the first period for Team USA, facing little action and making just two saves. But the Cottage Grove, Wis. native and fan favorite, received huge ovations throughout.
It was a great to be back at the Kohl Center playing in front of family and friends, Vetter said. I definitely had a good time playing here, so it was exciting to be back.
The Americans would add three more goals in the second period on new Badgers goaltender Nikki Kaasa. The first came on a power-play as Jinelle Zaug-Siergiej of upstate Eagle River tipped in a point blast from Kacey Bellamy.
The last two came off the stick of Monique Lamoureax who snagged a pair of goals at the end of the period. The first came on a high shot over the shoulder, while the second came on a 2-on-1 rush with Knight, where Lamoureax snuck the puck through Kaasas legs.
Despite the three goal period, Kaasa was outstanding, making 12 saves including several of the spectacular variety. The effort was enough to earn the freshman Wisconsins player of the game honors.
It was a lot of fun, a great experience and a great crowd, Kaasa said. (During the game) I was going on adrenaline the whole time and staying quiet. After the big saves, I just said all right and lets go get the next one.
In the third USA rounded out the scoring with three more goals, the first coming off the stick Jocelyn Lamoureax. Lamoureax got the puck low and chipped a shot up and over new Badgers goaltender Becca Ruegsegger. Jocelynes twin sister Monique assisted on the goal.
Then Knight found Potter in the slot for the second goal of the period before Lawler finished of the scoring after a great setup from Zaug-Siergiej.
Despite the USA goals, the highlight of the third came when Badgers freshman forward Lauren Unser was awarded a penalty shot. With entire crowd on their feet attempting to will the puck in, Unser tried to fool USA goaltender Brianne McLaughlin with a shot to the stick side. But McLaughlin calmly steered the puck away preserving the shut out.
It was probably my favorite moment of the game, Wisconsin coach Tracey DeKeyser said. Lauren is a freshman who doesnt get much playing time, and for her to get that kind of opportunity to go against (an Olympic) goalie was just great.
The score lacked significance on this night for the Badgers. Instead the game offered the opportunity for all involved, including the 6,085 in attendance, to enjoy an experience they will never forget.
Honestly, it was the highlight of my career just being there, DeKeyser said. I was just enjoying the moment, looking at the other bench and seeing how far our own Badgers have come to reach this point in their career.
Though it was a tough night to judge, Team USA coach Mark Johnson was impressed with what he saw from his former and future team.
Obviously I think it was going to be a transition year for them, Johnson said. But I think weve seen that they are getting better. You try to play your best hockey in January and February and that is the path they are going down, so I feel very comfortable with what is going on.
Wisconsin returns to WCHA action Friday, traveling to Grand Forks to take on North Dakota. Meanwhile, Team USA continues the final stages of the Quest tour Tuesday in Minneapolis, where they will take on the Minnesota.