, ,

Badgers Are National Champions In Women’s Hockey, Again

Daryl Watts Scored The Game Winning Goal In Overtime

The Wisconsin Badgers celebrate their sixth national title in women’s hockey on March 20, 2021. Photo courtesy of UW Athletics

The Wisconsin Badgers are national champions in women’s hockey for the sixth time, tying Minnesota’s record.

The No. 2 Badgers faced the No. 1 Northeastern Huskies Saturday in the finals of the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin forward Daryl Watts, who scored the game winner in overtime, said she was speechless after the game.

It was a tough battle that remained scoreless through two-and-a-half periods.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Shots were 9-9 in the first. The Badgers are known for starting out strong, and they played much of the period in the Northeastern zone but came away with nothing to show for it.

Northeastern got a chance in the second period, with the first power play of the game, after Wisconsin’s Katie Kotlowski was called for tripping. The Badgers’ penalty kill came through, holding the Huskies to one shot. In fact, Northeastern tallied just six shots in the second period despite playing more than five minutes with a man advantage.

The Badgers got their turn on the power play just minutes later. Northeastern star Alina Mueller, an Olympian for her native Switzerland, went to the box for holding, but Wisconsin couldn’t capitalize. The Badgers had one shot before Lacey Eden was called for interference with 30 seconds left on the power play, and the teams went to 4-on-4 hockey.

Northeastern had a third power play in the second period, after Wisconsin was called for too many skaters. But the Huskies couldn’t mount a sustained attack on that one either.

Both teams had good chances while playing at full strength at the end of the period, but neither found the net.

Kennedy Blair was in goal for the Badgers. She stopped 24 pucks Saturday. Blair came to Wisconsin as a graduate transfer from Mercyhurst. Before the start of the season, she knew she had big skates to fill, she said. Blair took over for Badgers goalie Kristen Campbell, who didn’t allow a single goal in the 2019 NCAA tournament.

Now Blair has cemented her own legacy at Wisconsin.

On the opposite end, the Badgers faced the 2021 Goalie of the Year, Aerin Frankel, who made 35 stops for Northeastern Saturday.

Between periods, Badgers head coach Mark Johnson said he thought momentum swung to Wisconsin in the second period. And it was his team that would get on the board first.

Just 20 seconds into the third, Britta Curl had a shot for Wisconsin. It was the first of several scoring chances for the Badgers early in the period. A few minutes in, Eden hit the post. Later, Frankel made a big glove save off a shot from Watts.

Watts, a senior, is a Top 3 finalist for this year’s Patty Kazmaier Award, which goes to the top female college hockey player in the country. She had three shots Saturday.

But it was a freshman who tallied the first goal of the game. Eleven minutes into the period, Wisconsin’s Makenna Webster scored off a rebound from Casey O’Brien.

The lead didn’t last long for the Badgers. Less than a minute later, Chloe Aurard found the net for Northeastern off an assist from Mueller.

With just over five minutes left, Curl was called for crosschecking, giving the Huskies another power play. Again, Wisconsin killed it, and the third period ended in a tie.

The Badgers applied pressure early in overtime, and they won it just a few minutes in. Watts scored from behind the net, her puck ricocheting off a defender. It was the shortest overtime period ever played in a women’s hockey finals game.

The Badgers entered the tournament as defending national champions, having won the title in 2019. Just days before the Badgers were set to defend it last year, the tournament was canceled in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is everything we’ve wanted for the past two years,” Watts said after the game.

This season wasn’t easy. Wisconsin missed the whole month of December due to COVID-19 and injuries.

The Badgers played only about half the games they would in a normal season. But they ended up playing their best hockey at the right time. They won their conference tournament. Then Wisconsin beat the Providence Friars in the quarterfinals and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the semifinals to reach Saturday’s game.

The Huskies had won 18 straight games going into the final. In the semifinals, Northeastern beat Minnesota-Duluth in overtime.

Related Stories