Badgers seek increased production on power plays

first_imgAs the Wisconsin women’s hockey team prepares for the WCHA Final Face-Off against Minnesota-Duluth, the success of the team may depend more on special teams than ever before this year.Wisconsin has had plenty of success on the power play this season, scoring 39 power-play goals on 160 chances, putting them at a 24.4 percent conversion rate. The Badgers’ opponents have scored only 14 goals on 128 chances on the power play, resulting in a success rate of only 10.9 percent.“It becomes a crucial part of the game,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said. “When you get an opportunity, you need to capitalize. Seems to be this time of year it’s tough to score goals – games are tight. So, if your power play is working, that’s going to help you get better opportunities in games.”Despite Wisconsin’s overall success on the power play this season, the Badgers struggled in that regard in their first postseason series last weekend versus Minnesota State. The Badgers went 1-for-5 on Friday and again on Saturday.The Badgers won both games in shutouts, 7-0 and 4-0, paced offensively by senior forward Hilary Knight, who tallied two assists in Saturday’s contest. But Knight knows that every power play the Badgers don’t capitalize on is a missed opportunity.“You’ve lost a great chance to score a goal,” Knight said. “It’s demoralizing when you get a penalty, but even more so when you don’t score a goal.”Despite the Badgers’ inability to take advantage of their opponent last weekend when it was a man down, they created plenty of opportunities. The Badgers had six of their 20 shots come on the power play in game one and followed that up with 29 the next day. During just one power play Saturday, the Badgers notched six shots and a goal.Wisconsin has attempted 57 more shots on the power play than their opponents, and the Badgers also have a shot percentage of 14.7, compared to only 6.7 percent for their opponents.“If you’re creating opportunities, that’s all you can ask for,” Johnson said. “Some games the puck is going to go in, and some games it isn’t. This time of year, it comes down to your ability to execute.”On the flip side, Wisconsin doesn’t commit a lot of penalties, but when it does, it has done a stellar job of stopping the opposing teams from taking advantage.Wisconsin ranks first in the WCHA in the penalty kill at 89.1 percent, and the Badgers did not allow Minnesota State to gain any momentum on the power play in their first series, holding them to 0-for-1 Friday and 0-for-4 Saturday. Junior defenseman Stefanie McKeough has helped the Badgers with their penalty kill since returning from injury.“That’s even more of a motivation or momentum changer,” McKeough said of the penalty kill. “When you get a penalty called against you, it kind of brings a team down. But when your four players are able to outwork their five players, it definitely brings a momentum shift to the rest of the team.”A key component to the Badgers’ kill has been the performance of their goaltender, sophomore Alex Rigsby, who has gone the last 167 minutes without allowing a goal. Wisconsin’s shutouts of Minnesota State this weekend were also the eighth and ninth time the goaltender has posted zeroes this season.Rigsby is leading the WCHA in goals allowed, giving up only 1.34 goals-per-game, save percentage at 95.2 percent and in winning percentage at 88.9 percent.“Your goalie has got to be good,” Johnson said. “She has to be your best penalty killer.”Wisconsin has been very good about not taking many penalties, having had 151 called on them, which is 30 fewer than their opponents. The Badgers have the second fewest penalty minutes in the WCHA, trailing only Bemidji State.The Badgers have an advantage on the ice of 30-plus minutes over their opponents, which has helped them create momentum throughout the course of the season. And momentum could very well be the key for the Badgers to win in the postseason.“Hockey is a game of momentum,” McKeough said. “In any point in time when the five of us are clicking, it’s definitely a help.”The Badgers rank second in the WCHA in power play percentage at 24.4 percent, trailing only Minnesota, who ranks first at 25 percent. As Wisconsin enters the Final Face-Off, Johnson knows that the power play will be the key to the team’s momentum and possibly whether it will win or lose.“The ice gets tilted if you spend time in the offensive zone on a power play,” Johnson said. “Anytime you can score a goal, it creates energy for everybody on your team.“The biggest thing is to make sure you are working and don’t get outworked by the opposing teams’ penalty kill.”last_img

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