BEMIDJI, MINN. -Hilary Knight secured a hat trick and Brianna Decker added a goal and three assists as No. 1 University of Wisconsin overpowered No. 7 Bemidji State University 6-1 Saturday afternoon at Sanford Center. The Badgers got off to an early 3-0 lead in the first period and BSU was unable to mount a comeback as Wisconsin proved to be too much. Wisconsin improves to 19-1-0 (13-1-0 WCHA) as the only loss it has suffered this season came to No. 2 University of Minnesota. Bemidji State falls to 10-7-2 (6-7-1 WCHA) as they suffer their first sweep at home since losing two to University of Wisconsin last season.
Knight commenced her goal showcase at the 3:04 mark in the first period when she took a Decker pass and netted the puck for the Badgers. The goal was Knight’s 21st of the season and Decker’s 25th assist of the year.
Wisconsin widened their advantage to 2-0 at the 12:00 mark in the first when Brooke Ammerman scored a goal off assists from Decker and Kataria Zgraja. The goal was Ammerman’s 17th of the season.
The Badgers went ahead 3-0 when Knight found the net for a second time off an Ammerman assist. The netter was Knight’s 22nd of the 2011-12 campaign.
Bemidji State attempted to start a comeback when Kristi King’s (So., F, Stillwater, Minn.) shot trickled past Wisconsin goaltender Alex Rigsby. The goal was the second of the season for King, a transfer from University of Maine. Molly Arola (Jr., F, Walker, Minn.) and Mackenzie Thurston (Jr., F, Ottawa, Ontario) notched assists on the goal.
The Beavers and Badgers had a back and forward second period until Wisconsin found the net for their fourth goal at the 12:42 mark of the period. Decker beat BSU goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova (Sr., Bratislava, Slovakia) off an assist from Stefanie McKeough.
Wisconsin lept to a 5-1 lead when Knight put the cherry on her hat trick as she found the net off assists from McKeough and Decker. The hat trick is the fourth of the season BSU has given up but it is the first since Oct. 28 when Minnesota’s Jen Schoullis tallied the feat in a 4-1 win for the Golden Gophers.
At the end of the third period, head coach Steve Sertich inserted one of his captain’s, Alana McElhinney (Sr., G, Calgary, Alberta) into the net to replace Tomcikova who allowed five goals in 40 minutes while making 19 saves. McElhinney gave up one goal as McKeough capped off the Badger win with a power-play goal in the third period. Knight and Ammerman had assists on the goal. McElhinney made six saves in the game in her first appearance since starting against Lindenwood University Nov. 10 at the Hippodrome in Eveleth, Minn.
Decker led the Badgers with eight shots on goal. Knight added six shots for Wisconsin who finished with 31 shots on net on the afternoon. BSU was paced by four shots apiece from Erika Wheelhouse (Jr., D, Crookston, Minn.) and Montana Vichorek (Sr., D, Moose Lake, Minn.) The Beavers head 29 shots on goal overall.
The Beavers were unable to capitalize on six power-play opportunities in the game.
BSU ends the first-half of the season with its most wins before the turn of a calendar year in the program’s history. The Beavers have accomplished several major feats to begin the 2011-12 campaign as they have surprised many who expected a fall off offensively for a team who lost three major components of its offensive attack to graduation including Erin Cody. The Beavers have tallied 61 goals on the season compared to its final tally of 70 from last season and have remained one of the top power-play units in the country with 23 goals on 83 attempts.
Key to BSU’s scoring has been a trio of defenseman who have increase their roles on the offensive half of the ice this season. Vichorek and the Wheelhouse sisters are among BSU’s top five scorers this season. Also paramount in BSU’s first-half has been achieving its first ranking in a national poll in program history. The accomplishment happened Oct. 31 after defeating No. 2 Minnesota. The Beavers quickly fell out of the poll but found their way back after upending No. 6 University of North Dakota. Coming into the Wisconsin series BSU achieved its highest ranking in program history as they were picked No. 7 in both the USCHO.com poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
Bemidji State will look to build on its quality first-half performance as they return to action Dec 30 and 31 at Robert Morris University.