Women’s hockey: Nurse coming alive down the stretch for Badgers

first_imgWisconsin sophomore Sarah Nurse did not let a few scoreless games get into her head.She just came back even stronger when the opportunities came her way.Nurse’s lone goal in the second half of the season, prior to this scoreless stretch, came against Bemidji State in a 2-1 loss Jan. 16.The Hamilton, Ontario, native next lit the lamp Feb. 22 in the Badgers’ final regular season game against St. Cloud State.“The coaches, the team, they are all really supportive, so when you go through those slumps, they are always there for you to keep pushing you because you know those opportunities are going to go in sooner or later,” Nurse said.That month-long stretch for Nurse not finding the back of the net — which spanned 10 games — resulted in two ties and two losses. The losses were to Ohio State and St. Cloud State, two teams well below Wisconsin in the WCHA standings.“When we played St. Cloud and she scored a goal that Sunday afternoon, it relaxed her, and she has been very, very good up to this point and certainly was a big factor in why we had success this past weekend,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said.Since then, Nurse has scored six goals in the past five games, won the WCHA Final Face Off Most Outstanding Player award for her four goals and two assists during the two games this past weekend, and led Wisconsin to its first WCHA playoff title since 2011.She currently stands in third place on the team in goals with 13, behind freshman Annie Pankowski’s 18 tallies and senior Blayre Turnbull’s 15.Nurse’s recent production comes as no surprise to her coach and teammates, who have seen the hard work she did every day to get back on track.“It was probably a month ago she was getting the same type of opportunities, and for whatever reason, the puck wasn’t going in, but she kept pushing herself and creating opportunities,” Johnson said after beating Bemidji State in the WCHA Final Face-Off championship game Sunday.After mixing up the forward lines on several occasions, Johnson settled on McKibbon and Nurse playing together along with Katy Josephs, who used to play on the first line, possibly helping spark the offense.Since Nurse scored her goal Feb. 22 against St. Cloud State, Wisconsin has scored four or more goals in five straight contests. The offensive binge comes on the heels of a stretch earlier in the second half of the season where Wisconsin hadn’t scored more than two goals in seven consecutive games.“I think just our whole team is playing well,” Nurse said. “We have a ton of energy. We’re really excited to be on the ice every single shift, and I think just feeding off the energy from the team is really helping all of our game.”A third line consisting of Nurse, McKibbon, and the senior Josephs has hit its stride, creating many opportunities. McKibbon added a goal in Saturday’s semifinal game.This line led the Badgers with five goals in the two WCHA Final Face-Off games. But the overall scoring from the team is in a positive place for Wisconsin heading into the NCAA Tournament.“All of us have been working hard throughout the season,” McKibbon said. “The lines have been switching up a bit, but finally we have been clicking. All three lines have been able to find success and be able to find the back of the net. This weekend, Sarah, Katy and I had a lot of opportunities and we were able to score on them.”Sophomore Sydney McKibbon knows Nurse well, having played together for six years now between the Wisconsin and Team Canada squads.“We know where each other are going to be and find each other,” McKibbon said. “Finally she is scoring. I know she had a little bit of a lull. She’s definitely played well all year, and she’s definitely earned the goals she has gotten.”McKibbon said she believes Nurse has always had the skills to light the lamp at any point, something that makes the Wisconsin offense so dominant.The Badgers have also won all four playoff games by a combined score of 17-3.“She’s got a phenomenal shot,” McKibbon said. “She’s able to find the back of the net, and she can see where she wants to put the puck, so that helps a lot.”Even when players have the skills to be successful, it takes hard work and a selfless attitude. For Nurse, the goals and individual accolades are fun, yet the team accomplishments mean even more.“It’s obviously a really cool thing to say you did,” Nurse said of her recent individual accolades. “But I think just coming home with the championship trophy, that totally just outweighed anything that happened last weekend.”last_img read more