MADISON — The University of Wisconsin Badgers set a new NCAA record for attendance at a women’s hockey game after 15,359 fans piled into Madison’s Kohl Center on Saturday for the biennial “Fill the Bowl” game.
With white towels swirling through the sell-out crowd, the top-ranked Badgers topped their own record of 13,573 fans, recorded in a game against the rival University of Minnesota Golden Gophers on Feb. 15, 2014.
They not only know how to throw a party, as the Badgers managed to win in style, grabbing a 2-0 win over the St. Cloud State Huskies, giving the record crowd something to cheer about.
“I think during the national anthem, as I looked around, it just amazed me how the community embraced this,” said Badger coach Mark Johnson. “Badger nation, our fans, the city, their willingness to come out and support not only the program but support the cause, it just put a smile on my face.”
The final tally didn’t show just how much Wisconsin dominated play as the red-and-white clad Badgers outshot St. Cloud 61-12. Running up the shot count is something the nation’s No. 1 team is making a habit of doing. They’ve surpassed 40 shots on 11 occasions this season. However, breaking 60 certainly raises eyebrows, marking just the ninth time they’ve hit that mark in school history.
Junior Emily Clark opened the scoring just 47 seconds into the second period with a power play goal, her ninth score of the season and fifth in her last four games. This one, however, might stand out a little bit more.
“After that first goal, the noise is something I won’t forget,” Clark said. “It’s awesome for women’s hockey. It’s awesome for us. It just shows how much pride Madison has in its sports teams and it’s pretty cool to be a part of it.”
The “Fill the Bowl” game was the second game of a series sweep for the Badgers, after a 9-0 win Friday on the back of hat tricks for both junior Annie Pankowski and Clark. The pair, along with senior Sarah Nurse, have been going for the jugular. Over the last five conference games, Nurse has three goals and seven points, Pankowski has seven and 12 while Clark has racked up an impressive five goals and 15 points, with all three climbing their way up the NCAA leaderboards, ranking in the top 21 scorers nationally.
That line continued to make the case that they’re one of the best in the nation and Badger netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens posted her 10th shutout of the year, but it was St. Cloud goaltender Janine Alder who was the star in many ways.
The 21-year-old freshman from Switzerland stopped an incredible 59 pucks, the third-most saves in program history. But even in a losing effort where she didn’t have enough support, she recognized the magnitude of the moment.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It was a dream come true. I was just so stoked to be here and to have the opportunity to play here. This is just awesome for the whole of women’s hockey itself and for our team.”
That sentiment was felt by every player and coach in the building.
“What a special event,” said St. Cloud coach Eric Rud. “What a great thing for the community of Madison to come out and support women’s hockey like that. It was truly a thrill for our kids to get out there and play and compete in that environment. It was a special day.”
Saturday’s game was the fifth “Fill the Bowl” game hosted by the Badgers. The first one on Jan. 26, 2008 also saw the red-and-white faceoff against St. Cloud. It was a 4-0 win in front of 5,377 fans. With this new record in place, the Badgers are owners of the top five single-game attendance marks in NCAA history.
“It was so cool,” said freshman Presley Norby. “I was actually at this game two years ago when I wasn’t committed and I was like, ‘Wow, I want to play in one of these games.’ So, the fact that I got to do it tonight was really cool.
“How do you go into that arena and not want to be on the ice as a person that loves hockey?”