MADISON, Wisc. - The Wisconsin women's hockey team turned it up in the third period, scoring three goals in the final period to defeat St. Cloud State, 4-1, on Saturday night at LaBahn Arena.
With the win, Wisconsin (23-9-2 overall) sweeps St. Cloud State (10-23-3 overall) in the best-of-three playoff series and advances to the Final Faceoff in Minneapolis to take on North Dakota, March 8 at 4 p.m.
"We had some adversity in the second period, but we were fortunate to get out of there at 1-1," said head coach Mark Johnson. "If we stayed out of the penalty box and played with a little bit more discipline, eventually we were going to create enough scoring opportunities that hopefully one would get by. We ended up getting some power plays and it worked out well."
Going into the third period, the game was tied 1-1, with goals coming from Katy Josephs for the Badgers and Alex Nelson for the Huskies.
The Badgers capitalized on their first power-play opportunity of the third period, just six minutes in, when Josephs squeezed the puck in from the side of the net, between the post and the leg of SCSU goaltender Julie Friend, giving Wisconsin a 2-1 lead.
Two minutes later the Badgers scored again on the power play. After a scramble in front of the net, Madison Packer batted a puck out of the air to put Wisconsin up by two.
Brianna Decker added the icing on the cake, scoring her 29th goal of the season, to give the Badgers a 4-1 lead heading into the final minutes of regulation. After dishing the puck to Packer in the corner, Decker crashed the net and received the puck back from Packer before slipping it past Friend for the final tally of the night.
The Badgers dominated the first period, out-shooting the Huskies 17-4, but penalties grinded the Badgers' offense to a halt in the second period, as the Huskies out-shot Wisconsin 10-5.
Wisconsin committed four-of-its-five penalties in the second period alone. The lone St. Cloud State goal was scored during a 5-on-3 power play halfway through the second period.
Josephs got the Badgers on the board first when she redirected a shot from Saige Pacholok.
Alex Rigsby made 22 saves in the win, making six on the penalty kill. The Badgers extend their winning streak against the Huskies to 17 games.
"Your best penalty killer has to be your goaltender and (Rigsby) hadn't been tested up to that point, so when she did get tested she met the task," Johnson said.
All four of the WCHA first-round playoff series ended in sweeps, as the field for the 2013 WCHA Final Face-Off has been determined.
No. 2-seed Wisconsin will play against No. 3-see North Dakota in the opening game of the semifinals on Friday, March 8, at 4 p.m., with No. 1-seed Minnesota playing No. 5-seed Ohio State at 7 p.m.
The winners of Friday's games will play for the championship on March 9 at 7 p.m. The 2013 WCHA Final Face-Off is being held at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.