VERONA, Wis. — After a 72-point regular season, Wisconsin forward Brianna Decker showed no signs of slowing down in the opening game of the WCHA playoffs.
Decker backed up her Patty Kazmaier Award-worthy campaign with a four-point night, contributing two goals and two assists as Wisconsin demolished Minnesota State-Mankato, 7-0, Friday night at the Eagles Nest.
“(Decker’s) one of our better players,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “She, along with linemates Brooke Ammerman and Carolyne Prévost, gave us energy to start the game.”
Decker picked up a pair of points in the game’s first six minutes as the Badgers raced out a 3-0 lead. Wisconsin’s leading scorer picked up the second assist when senior forward Brooke Ammerman put away a perfect setup from Prévost.
After Brooke’s younger sister, Brittany Ammerman, made it 2-0 a minute and a half later, Decker made it three Badgers goals in a 2:39 span by sliding a backhand shot through Mavericks sophomore goaltender Danielle Butters’ legs.
“Once we popped three in early, it kind of got the playoff nerves out a little bit, especially for the freshman,” Decker said. “That energy we had (early on) was a real key in our success tonight.”
At that point, Minnesota State switched to goaltender Ali Altmann, but the senior did not fare better against Decker and Wisconsin in the second period.
With 8:57 left in the middle frame, Decker blasted home a rebound from Prévost’s initial shot for her second goal of the night. Prévost did most of the work on the play, catching a pass at center ice and then jumping around MSU defender Emilia Andersson before cranking a shot off the right post.
With four and half minutes left in the period, Decker finished off her four-point effort by setting up Brooke Ammerman’s second goal of the night.
Ammerman added insurance in the third period, rounding out the scoring with her third and fourth goals. Both of her late tallies were of the unassisted variety, including a short-handed breakaway goal that fulfilled the hat trick.
“I guess tonight was my night, but a lot of nights it’s other players,” Ammerman said. “I think it’s good that we can share the wealth.”
Wisconsin (30-3-2) will eliminate Minnesota State with another victory in the rematch Saturday night. However, the Mavericks (7-27-1) will have coach Eric Means back on the bench.
Means voluntarily decided not to coach Minnesota State in Friday night’s game for reasons stemming back to events that occurred the previous weekend at Minnesota-Duluth. Means’ choice, which occurred just prior to the game, was the coach’s alone, and was not enforced by the WCHA. The league, however, did concur with his decision.
“I think it was (coach Means’) best interests that he sat out tonight,” Mavericks assistant coach Jon Austin said. “(But) he will be back tomorrow night.”
Despite missing Means, Austin refused to make excuses after the game.
“We just didn’t give ourselves a chance to win tonight,” Austin said.
Though many of the Badgers weren’t aware of Means’ decision until after the opening faceoff, Wisconsin sought to exploit the confusion once they realized the Mavericks coach was not on the bench.
“We kind of caught on when we didn’t see him there,” Ammerman said. “I’m sure it had something to do with MSU’s slow start, but I guess (we’ll know for sure) tomorrow.”