ERIE, Pa. – The Wisconsin Badgers advanced to their seventh-straight NCAA Frozen Four with a 3-0 win over Providence on Tuesday afternoon.
Wisconsin – who are the reigning National Champions dating back to 2019 – now holds the longest Frozen Four appearance streak in women’s college hockey history.
“We’re excited to go to the Frozen Four and get an opportunity to win. I’ve always thought the quarterfinal games in these tournaments were really the most challenging and difficult ones that you really have to get over because you think you’re in the NCAA tournament but you’re still really one step from the Frozen Four,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson.
Despite out-shooting the Friars 44-12, the win did not come easy for the Badgers. They dominated the time of possession in the first period and outshot Providence 13-0, but struggled to get the puck inside. The Friars were stellar on defense, lifting sticks, deflecting passes and blocking shots.
The star of the game was Providence senior goalie Sandra Abstreiter, who matched the career high of 41 saves she set just last week against Northeastern in the Hockey East championship game. She stymied them at every turn, making save after save on shots from distance and opportunities in close. When she didn’t stop the puck cold, her blueliners were quick to push the puck aside.
The Badgers finally broke through midway through the period when Brette Pettet’s shot from the top of the near circle deflected off Abstreiter’s stick and into the net.
Providence seemed to recover a bit in the second as they gained confidence and finally were able to put pucks on net. The Badgers wobbled a bit as they saw some of the first real action in their defensive zone, but as coach Mark Johnson pointed out, his team bent, but did not break.
They came out more calm in the third and Sophie Shirley doubled the lead just 3:35 into the period. Her one-timer lit the lamp, but much of the credit on the goal goes to Britta Curl, who tracked the puck behind the net where she snatched it from Bailey Burton from behind. She quickly fed it to Shirley, who was crashing the net between the circles and one-timed it into the net.
Curl, who was moved to Wisconsin’s top line to pair with Shirley and Pettet has settled well into the role.
“I think I’ve just been playing with confidence the last couple weeks. Goals may not come, the points may not come, but I’m playing well and I know that I’m contributing to the team. Whether that be in the d-zone or on the score sheet. My linemates have been playing really well, so that’s helped a lot too. I think I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder and I want to play hard,” said Curl.
In the final minutes of the game, Providence’s Annelise Rice was called for cross-checking and the Friars pulled Abstreiter during the penalty kill to make it five-on-five.
Shirley ensured the win for Wisconsin with a great solo effort through a number of Friars to score on the empty net.
Though the Badgers are well used to being one of the last teams playing, making the Frozen Four this year carries some extra weight after last year’s tournament was cancelled, particularly for those players who may be ending their career.
“It’s exciting. It’s been a crazy year and after last year, not having a chance to do this, it definitely makes you a little more hungry,” said Pettet. “I’m excited for the freshmen coming in and the sophomores who didn’t get to experience it yet. I’m very excited and I think our team has worked really hard for this.”