Defense helps Badgers earn win, tie against UMD

first_imgWhile the Wisconsin women’s hockey team struggles to get the puck in the net, its defense has consistently shown a strong effort in keeping opponents away from the goal.Squaring off against the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who sit ahead of the Badgers in the WCHA and are ranked No. 4 nationally to the Badgers’ No. 6 ranking, the Badgers expected a strong offensive front but were confident they could handle the pressure.Wisconsin’s defensemen have improved their game, and it was clearly apparent against the Bulldogs, only allowing a total of 38 shots on goal in the series to their 79. Considering UMD is averaging about 33 shots a game, Wisconsin stepped it up again and held them to an average of 19 shots per game on the series.While much credit is given to the defense, interim head coach Tracey DeKeyser also gives credit to the forwards for assisting the defense.“We have a defensive corps back there that can really anticipate well and read the seams and read the play,” DeKeyser said. “I give credit to our forwards for coming back, providing back pressure to allow them to step up, so it’s not just two people on the blue line, … that’s five people working together.”While the forwards may be helping the defense more, the defensemen have returned the favor. Two of the three goals Wisconsin tallied against Duluth were by defensemen.“I think we have a really solid group back there right now,” junior defenseman Geena Prough said. “When we see an opportunity to jump in, I think the forwards trust us and stay back for one of us. We try to get offense generated that way.”The team effort was clear in Friday’s game, where the Badgers held the Bulldogs to 14 shots on goal.Senior goalie Alannah McCready, who was in net on Friday, expected to see a lot more shots from the talented Duluth team but was pleased the defense kept them at bay.“We’ve been doing a really good job,” McCready said. “I thought I was going to get way more shots than I did, but [the defense] did a really good job of blocking shots and making sure that when I did get shots, they were from the outside.”Although they have been showing a strong team effort, the Badgers are still struggling to consistently find the back of the net and stop splitting series. Getting an impressive 3-1 win on Friday showed a confident Wisconsin team, but Sunday seemed to tell a different story for the Badgers.The Bulldogs came out on Sunday ready to fight. They fought to a 2-2 tie with the Badgers and made the defense work a lot harder, drawing 24 shots on goal. Freshman goalie Becca Ruegsegger, who tended net on Sunday, was still confident in the defense ahead of her.“Our defense, I thought, played very well this game,” Ruegsegger said. “They picked up girls up front and stopped some backdoor passes, intercepted passes, were blocking shots left and right. I mean they played very well. I just think UMD stepped it up a notch and came out harder.”Even though Wisconsin cannot seem to stay consistent as a whole, the defense has been helping the team move in the right direction. Walking away with a win and a tie against No. 4 UMD was an exciting learning experience for the team.With all of their struggles in tow, the defense is helping the team get back to being the talented squad they have been known as over the past couple of years.Despite the series draw, DeKeyser believes her team’s performance shows how strong it will have to remain throughout the rest of the season, as well as the Badgers’ need to improve as a squad.“I think we just need to understand how tough, how much of a cat fight it’s going to be the rest of the way. … Every goal is so crucial,” DeKeyser said. “We outshot them — we just didn’t put the puck in the net, and that’s been the running theme for this year.”last_img

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