MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin hosted its fourth annual Fill the Bowl game and drew 13,573 fans, a record for an NCAA women’s game, but Minnesota made sure that they had less and less to cheer as the contest moved along.
Forwards Kelly Terry, Hannah Brandt, Bethany Brausen, and Meghan Lorence scored goals in a 20-minute stretch that spanned the end of the second period and the start of the third to give the Gophers (30-1-1, 24-1-1-0 WCHA) a 4-0 win and a sweep of the season series over the nation’s second-ranked team.
“A real complete hockey game by our club tonight,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
Sophomore Amanda Leveille earned her 30th win and 11th shutout of the season by denying all 24 shots she faced.
“She feeds off the pressure, I think,” Terry said of her goalie. “Even in North Dakota, she said she loves hearing the fans chirp her and everything. She just gets super pumped up. It was the exact same thing here. Right away, she had the student section behind her heckling her, and that just puts some fight in her, I think, and she’s an animal out there.”
Coach Mark Johnson of Wisconsin (23-5-2, 19-5-2-1 WCHA) was appreciative of the crowd support.
“I think most importantly, [the fans] gave some players and individuals a memory that will last a lifetime,” he said. “Get an opportunity to play in front of a big crowd, so to those folks that came out, a big, thank you on behalf of the athletic department and certainly the women’s hockey program.”
Although the increased seating capacity of the Kohl Center made the record crowd possible, its larger ice surface may not have worked in Wisconsin’s favor versus the Gophers.
“It’s certainly more challenging, especially with some of the strengths that they have,” Johnson said. “Obviously, their biggest strength is their speed up front, and so if you give them time and you give them space, it becomes more of a challenge to cover them.”
Terry broke the scoreless deadlock halfway through the game. She broke in two-on-one with Dani Cameranesi and used her as a decoy while she surveyed her options before picking the top corner.
“Dani is really good at tapping it in back door, so that was actually my first choice,” Terry said. “I really wanted to try to hit her there, because I knew that she would for sure put it in. Their defense kind of cheated over and I saw a hole and just went for it.”
Brandt doubled the lead at 17:48 of the second period. Rachael Bona corralled a rebound beside the net with Badgers goalie Alex Rigsby down and fed Brandt waiting on the backdoor.
The Gophers tacked on a couple more in the third period when a pair of wings wound up alone in the slot with the puck. The goal to make it 3-0 was especially key because it came moments after Brandt left the game with an apparent lower-body injury; she did not return.
“Our coaches were telling us the whole game to try and take their defense wide, especially this ice surface is so big and if we cut middle, we’re giving them an opportunity to take it from us,” Terry said. “I just heard Brausen calling for it in the slot, she was wide open, and she did a great job getting a stick on it.”
Maryanne Menefee filled in at center after Brandt went down, and Menefee fed Lorence to complete the scoring with Kate Schipper also getting an assist, her second of the game.
This group of Minnesota seniors had been through a Fill the Bowl as freshmen.
“It was really the first time we had played in front of a really, really big crowd like that, over 10,000,” Frost said. “Right as the anthem finished three years ago and the place was going bananas, I said to my assistant, ‘If we can just keep it scoreless for the first, we’ll be in good shape.’ Then [Hilary] Knight scored 47 seconds in and got the place going. It was big for us to keep it scoreless there in the first and get that first goal.”
Both teams know that bigger games are ahead, albeit with smaller crowds.
“It’s a humbling experience to put on a party and then have the score be what it was, but it’s also a learning opportunity,” Johnson said. “As I told our group after the game, in the next three or four weeks we could make some special things happen.”