Coach Mark Johnson had a quick answer earlier this week on what his top-ranked University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team could improve in the second half of the season after a 21-1 start.
The Badgers’ special teams, notably their power play, haven’t been at the same high level as other statistical areas.
Top-ranked UW took a step in the right direction there Saturday, scoring two power-play goals and killing both Minnesota State-Mankato opportunities in a 6-0 win at LaBahn Arena.
“We made some adjustments, we worked on it,” Johnson said. “The fun part about it is they get rewarded for working at it, and it’s a good way to start.”
In their first game in 35 days, the Badgers got power-play goals by Sam Cogan and Claudia Kepler to go with even-strength scores from Brette Pettet, Baylee Wellhausen, Maddie Rowe and Alexis Mauermann.
Kristen Campbell made 16 saves for her seventh shutout of the season and third straight, extending her shutout streak to 190:53.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Badgers ranked 19th of 40 teams nationally by scoring on 16.5 percent of power-play chances.
They took advantage of playing a Minnesota State team that was tied for 38th in penalty killing, and broke an 0-for-25 slump dating to Nov. 10 with Cogan’s goal 4:12 into the game.
Kepler’s team-high 12th goal of the season in the second period gave UW a 3-0 lead and multiple power-play strikes for just the fourth time in 23 games.
“When you’re not converting on the power play, yeah, there’s frustration,” Kepler said. “But we also have to look at it as, hey, we made a really good run in the first half without much of our power play being useful.”
The Badgers (22-1, 13-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) have the nation’s second-best defense but were 10th in penalty killing before blanking the Mavericks (3-19-1, 1-14).
UW, which set a program best with a 13-game league winning streak to start the season, extended its winning streak against Minnesota State to 20 games. In that stretch, the Badgers have outscored the Mavericks 104-9.
Minnesota State 0 0 0 — 0
Wisconsin 2 3 1 — 6
First period: W — Cogan 6 (Rolfes, Roque), 4:12 (pp); Pettet 8 (Wellhausen), 14:14. Penalty: Davidson, M, 3:48.
Second period: W — Kepler 12 (Rowe, Steffen), 3:57 (pp); Wellhausen 5 (Schneider, Roque), 6:13; Rowe 4 (Gardner), 8:31. Penalties: Bustad, M, 1:03; Keys, M, 2:31; Roque, W, 10:26; Gardner, M, 14:07; Steffen, W, 18:47.
Third period: W — Mauermann 9 (Cogan), 4:55. Penalty: Keys, M, 10:58.
Saves: M (Bidulka 10-6-x, Crosby x-8-12) 36; W (Campbell 5-8-3) 16. Power plays: M 0-for-2; W 2-for-5. Att. — 2,273.