Every weekday from June 12-27, we will be looking back at the "Top Shelf Moments" from the thrilling 2016-17 WCHA Women's League season. Up next on our countdown is…
Moment 8: 'Fill the Bowl' Sets U.S. Attendance Record
It is no secret that the WCHA is lucky to have college hockey's best fans. It is also obvious, with a tradition of success and the nation's top attendance in 2016-17, that Madison, Wis. – and the hometown Wisconsin Badgers – provide a thriving women's hockey community.
But, what happened Jan. 14 is truly extraordinary, as the Badgers drew 15,359 fans for their "Fill the Bowl" game at the Kohl Center in Madison, making it the highest-attended women's hockey game ever in the United States. Wisconsin defeated St. Cloud State, 2-0, in a game that outdrew NHL contests played that day in Florida (14,795) and Arizona (12,015).
The large, enthusiastic, towel-waving crowd – which also had the opportunity to donate non-perishable food items to a local Madison charity – broke the previous NCAA single-game attendance record of 13,573, set in February 2014 when the Badgers hosted Minnesota at the Kohl Center.
"I think during the national anthem, as I looked around, it just amazed me how the community embraced this," Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson told UWBadgers.com after the game. "Badger nation, our fans, the city, their willingness to come out and support not only the program but support the cause and it just put a smile on my face.
"It just made me happy that people are willing to do those type of things and give my players and the staff an experience that is once in a lifetime. I think everybody enjoyed it. I hope everybody had fun and I want to give a big thank you to everybody that came today and supported it."
On the ice, Wisconsin junior forward Emily Clark (who said of the crowd, "It was pretty surreal) scored on the power play just 47 seconds into the second period to provide all the offense the Badgers would need. Fellow junior Baylee Wellhausen added a goal at 1:58 of the third period, while senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens recorded one of her NCAA-record 55 career shutouts.
Also of note, St. Cloud State freshman goaltender (and Swiss National Team member) Janine Alder recorded 59 saves, the third-highest single-game total in school history.
But, the story of the game – which was televised live on FOX Sports North and FOX Sports Wisconsin – was the epic crowd.
"It blew (my expectations) away," UW captain Sydney McKibbon said. "Being in Fill the Bowl and not having a sellout my freshman year and then coming this year and having it sellout was pretty incredible. You just see those towels swinging around. That's something I will never forget."
"Top Shelf Moments" from the 2016-17 WCHA Season