It had been 566 days since Emily Clark played a game at LaBahn Arena, but she made her return to the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey lineup count.
Clark broke a second-period tie with what ended up as her 21st collegiate game-winning score, tied for fourth in program history, in the second-ranked Badgers’ season-opening 3-2 victory over Lindenwood on Friday.
“That definitely felt good, to get the first one back and hear that horn again,” said Clark, a senior who missed last season on an Olympic redshirt while she trained and played for Canada. “It definitely just made me feel back at home.”
The Badgers won their opener for the sixth straight season but had to overcome some sloppy stretches and a dose of misfortune.
Both Lindenwood goals stunned the opening-night announced crowd of 2,261, one because of the infrequency of the Lions holding a lead over the Badgers and the other because of its wacky nature.
Hannah Alt finished a rush up the right side 12 minutes into the first period on Lindenwood’s first shot on goal.
In 13 previous games against the Badgers — all losses — the Lions had been outscored 81-9 and had held a lead in only one game. They opened up a 2-0 advantage 3:25 into what turned into a 7-2 UW victory on Oct. 5, 2012.
Sophie Shirley’s first collegiate goal, set up by an impressive backhand feed from Abby Roque, brought the Badgers back to even in the final minute of the first period.
But Lindenwood found itself in the lead again less than two minutes into the middle frame when the Badgers inadvertently put the puck into their own net during a delayed penalty.
Below the goal line in the offensive zone, Roque tried to bank a pass back to the left point off the boards, but the puck eluded two UW teammates. It slid all the way to the other end of the ice and into the net that goalie Kristen Campbell (six saves) had vacated for an extra attacker because of the impending penalty.
Courtney Ganske, the closest Lindenwood player to Roque when she let the pass go, got credit for the goal.
“Those are always tough ones,” Shirley said. “I think those are ones you’ve got to wipe off and forget about and go out on your next shift and try even harder.”
It was a fluke, but it also represented the frequent absence of sharpness for the Badgers in the opener. UW missed connections on passes and misfired on a number of good chances in front of the net.
“It’s not a finished product by any means,” Badgers coach Mark Johnson said. “For a first game, there’s a lot of things you can build off of and a lot of things you can show the team and make improvements.”
The Badgers regrouped from the own-goal to turn the pressure back on, and fourth-line center Delaney Drake chipped in a rebound less than five minutes later to make it 2-2.
After Clark’s go-ahead goal, Lindenwood had two power plays in the third period to find an equalizer, but the Badgers allowed only one shot on goal over the four minutes.
Co-captain Sophia Shaver blocked the only Lions attempt on the second power play, which came with less than four minutes to play. UW’s penalty killers barely allowed Lindenwood to set up.
“We haven’t spent a lot of time” on penalty killing in practice, Johnson said. “The personnel that were out there have been around a little bit, so it’s just a matter of being willing do so some little things as far as blocking shots and winning a faceoff, competing for the puck and trying to take some of their time and space away.”
First period: L — Alt 1 (Wagner), 12:00. W — Shirley 1 (Roque, Cogan), 19:08.
Second period: L — Ganske 1, 1:40 (en). W — Drake 1 (Pettet, Curl), 5:59; Clark 1 (LaMantia, Rolfes), 9:45 (pp). Penalties: Stitt, L, 1:40; Burt, L, 8:49.
Third period penalties: Steffen, W, 7:09; Norby, W, 16:52.
Saves: L (DeBruyn 16-15-12) 43; W (Campbell 1-2-3) 6. Power plays: L 0-for-2; W 1-for-2. Att. — 2,261.