A new season started for the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team Friday night at the Kohl Center, but the smashing 7-0 victory over RPI had the look of the old, champion Badgers.
The Badgers were in such a hurry to put last year's miseries behind them that it took just 15 seconds into the game before they scored their first goal on a rocket shot by junior winger Carolyne Prevost. They went on to score four more in the first period.
It was a great welcome-back party for coach Mark Johnson, who took a sabbatical last year so he could coach Team USA at the Winter Olympics, as well as standout players, Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight, both of whom played for the silver medalists.
Without that trio, the Badgers struggled to an 18-15-3 record and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. They were NCAA champions in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and runners-up in 2008.
"If you're going to script it, that's a good way to start, especially in the opening game," Johnson said. "It set the tone for the first eight, 10 minutes of the game."
Nobody was surprised that Duggan and Knight scored two of the first-period goals for the faster, stronger, more experienced Badgers in this non-conference game.
The Badgers scored their first goal after senior defenseman Geena Prough got the puck off the faceoff and quickly passed to sophomore center Brianna Decker. She found a streaking Prevost, who fired a shot past RPI senior goalie Sonja van der Bliek. It was the first of two goals by Prevost.
"Seriously, it was such a different atmosphere today going into the game," Prevost said. "Everyone is excited for a fresh start. We have new faces. It was great to get a quick start like that and get the momentum going. It was a fun game to be a part of."
Knight, a junior winger who was the Western Collegiate Hockey Association player of the year two years ago as a sophomore, scored the Badgers' second goal after she fired a slapshot past van der Bliek's strong side from the right face-off circle with 16:16 left in the period.
Then, 55 seconds later, freshman Brittany Ammerman scored her first collegiate goal after she skated unabated into the RPI zone, dropped to one knee in front of the crease and drilled a shot that van der Bliek never saw.
Players from three lines accounted for the Badgers' first three goals. "We have some great chemistry," Knight said. "It's nice to see some of the younger kids stepping up and filling some roles."
Ammerman scored again from just left of the goalie with 7:07 left after she took a perfect pass from the corner from senior center Kelly Nash.
"Every freshman is nervous but they are also excited. Once you get that first shift out of your system, then you're good to go," Ammerman said. "Once you get the puck in the net, I don't think it gets better than that. Then times it by two. It's impressive."
Duggan, a senior winger, scored the Badgers' fifth goal of the period 19 seconds later when she stuffed the puck past van der Bliek during a scrum in the crease.
That was all for van der Bliek, who is one of just three seniors for RPI.
Prevost's second goal made it 6-0 on a power play with 11:57 left in the second period. Senior center Mallory Deluce scored a short-handed goal with 1:52 left in the game to close out the scoring.
Sophomore goalie Becca Ruegsegger made 11 saves for her third career shutout. "I feel like we were prepared," she said. "We were prepared for this game and we were ready to go out there and take the win."