UW relying on special teams

September 17, 2020

first_imgIf there were any questions whether or not the UW women’s hockey team improved their special teams units, they’ve been answered. Undefeated, and with only a single tie blemishing their record, the Badgers have played stellar hockey so far this season. UW head coach Mark Johnson, though, has been quick all year to comment on the need for strong special teams play, hoping the team could improve on both the power play and the penalty kill as the season progressed. Though they hadn’t topped three goals in any of their last five games heading into this weekend, the No. 1 Badgers put up 15 goals this weekend, six of them on the power play, and were able to kill off all nine of their penalties without allowing a goal during their sweep of visiting North Dakota. “It was pretty good, we created a lot of things; in games like this your power play has to be good,” Johnson said. “When you get power plays you want to capitalize on them.”Wisconsin certainly capitalized on their chances; the Badgers were a very impressive six of 12 on the power play. In comparison with the 31 percent rate they scored over their first eight games, the Badgers scored on half of their power play opportunities this weekend. Coming into the series, North Dakota had only allowed six goals in their 42 penalty kills, posting a formidable 86 percent penalty kill percentage. “The more time we spend on the power play the better we get at it,” UW forward Angie Keseley said. “I think we’re doing pretty well on it, and as we continue to go on this season we’ll keep getting better.”The Badgers’ first, and game-winning, goal Sunday came on the power play as the puck slid across the crease before deflecting off UW defender Meghan Mikkelson’s skate.”The puck just popped out, and it went off my skate, a lucky bounce,” Mikkelson said.While that goal may have been a fluke, Mikkelson too believes the team’s power play was very effective this weekend. “I think we did a good job this weekend, we communicated well.”Facing a North Dakota team that is just 1-33 on the power play this season, the Badgers played with complete control of the puck even when down a man. Though North Dakota had even power play opportunities this weekend, the Badger penalty kill was so effective that the Sioux only mustered a combined two shots on goal, and were held to no shots on six of the seven power plays. To put the Sioux’s power play struggles into perspective, Jinelle Zaugg scored more power play goals on Sunday (2) than North Dakota has all season (1).”The kill was good, we wanted to be aggressive all weekend and not let them set up,” Johnson said. The Badgers did just that as quick puck movement and constant pressure kept the Sioux off guard and allowed the Badgers to control the play. “I think [the special teams] did a really good job,” Mikkelson reiterated. “We’re working on being consistent with both our power play and our penalty kill.”Opponents surely can’t find the thought of the Badgers’ special teams becoming more consistent very encouraging. Whether Wisconsin’s success on the penalty kill and power play this weekend was more the product of playing a weak opponent or due to their own improvement will remain to be seen.But if the Badgers can continue their current level of play, it’s going to be tough to find the defending champions’ weakness, and even tougher to beat them.last_img

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