Badgers no match for Team USA

first_imgIn front of the largest women\’s hockey crowd in school history, the Wisconsin Badgers simply could not keep up with the bigger, faster Team USA in a 9-0 loss.[/media-credit]With a record crowd in attendance on Jan. 5, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team welcomed the U.S. Olympic National Team to the Kohl Center for an exhibition matchup.The Olympic squad, comprised of six current or former Badgers and led by sabbatical Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson, left no doubt about who was the best team in the land by delivering a 9-0 victory over UW.It was a special night in the Kohl Center as four graduated Badgers were welcomed back, as well as current UW athletes Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan, who elected to take a year off to participate in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.“Honestly, it was the highlight of my career,” Wisconsin interim head coach Tracey DeKeyser said. “I’m such a sucker for the Olympic games, and I cry every time it’s on, and for some reason I found myself kind of teary-eyed during the national anthem.”After a ceremonial puck-dropping to mark the occasion, Johnson’s crew wasted no time taking the speed of the game to a level the Badgers were not accustomed to.“It was really fast. They dumped the puck in and they were on you right away,” junior Geena Prough said. “You had to really think on your toes.”Senior Alannah McCready occupied the net for the Badgers in the first period while former Badger and winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award Jessie Vetter was in goal for Team USA.Forward Kelli Stack of the National Team scored first after five minutes of play.Johnson’s U.S. squad employed a fast-paced and highly organized offensive attack that kept the puck in Badger territory for much of the period.Two minutes after defenseman Lisa Chesson knocked in Team USA’s second goal, Knight flipped the puck high off the top bar and into the net to give the U.S. National Team a 3-0 edge heading into the first break.The Badger defense began to adjust to the up-tempo play of the Olympic squad in the second period.After former Badger Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej netted a goal four minutes in, freshman goaltender Nikki Kaasa and the rest of the defense stiffened, withstanding the relentless U.S. onslaught for 15 minutes before allowing two goals in the period’s final minute.“Gradually, as the game went on, we became less intimidated,” Kaasa said. “Once our defense was able to start picking up people in front of the net it was easy for me to see. Once our defense got there we were doing well.”Kaasa was named player of the game for Wisconsin, finishing with a team-leading 12 saves, as all three goalies on the roster played one period each.Play continued to open up beyond the Badgers’ half of the ice in the third period, despite the U.S. National Team scoring another three goals. The last goal for Team USA was a true Wisconsin affair netted by recent graduate Erika Lawler, off assists from fellow Wisconsin alumni Zaugg-Siergiej and Molly Engstrom.Offensively, scoring opportunities were sparse as Wisconsin recorded 15 total attempted shots with eight of them on goal.“There were moments where we had a chance to get a shot on net or control the puck down there or manage the puck a little better,” DeKeyser said. “I think, obviously, we were a bit tentative at the start and just had to adjust to the speed of play and the skill level.”However,Team USA’s roster forced Wisconsin to concentrate on the defense first, according to Prough.“We really just had to clean up our ‘D’ zone and take care of that first, that was our main goal, and then just try to move the puck into their zone,” Prough said.The Badgers understood the challenge they faced in Team USA prior to gametime and expected a valuable learning experience, which they unanimously agreed they had received.Wisconsin entered the game after a three-and-a-half week break from the ice. While many other schools have not played since mid-December, Wisconsin feels as if they have a jump on the competition for next week’s series at North Dakota and the rest of the season.“I think it was a big learning experience for us,” Prough said. “I think moving on to our next series this weekend is really going to help our game. Playing the Olympic team, obviously you have to play your best … so I think it’s really going to prepare us for this coming weekend.”last_img

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