There is no bigger stage for women’s college hockey these days than Madison, Wis., home of the top-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. They set a women’s NCAA attendance mark on Saturday when 15,359 fans filled Kohl Arena.
The massive fan turnout was part of the Fill the Bowl promotion where fans watched the Badgers blank St. Cloud State 2-0 to run their record to 20-2-1 overall and 15-2-1-1 WCHA play. The previous record of 13,753 was set by the Badgers in 2014. Wisconsin now owns the top five single-game attendance records for NCAA women’s hockey.
A night earlier, co-ASN Women's Players of the Week Annie Pankowski and Emily Clark, both juniors, became the first Wisconsin teammates to record hat tricks in the same game since Feb. 19, 2011.
The Badgers won the series opener, 9-0 at LaBahn Arena.
Clark has 15 points – five goals and 10 assists – in the last five games while fellow junior Pankowski has 14 goals in the last 10 games.
As impressive at the pair was on Friday, the fan turnout was every bit as amazing on Saturday.
"I think during the national anthem, as I looked around, it just amazed me how the community embraced this,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. "Badger nation, our fans, the city, their willingness to come out and support not only the program but support the cause and it just put a smile on my face.
"It just made me happy that people are willing to do those type of things, and give my players and the staff an experience that is once in a lifetime. I think everybody enjoyed it. I hope everybody had fun and I want to give a big thank you to everybody that came today and supported it."
Clark, who also scored the first goal in Saturday’s victory, was a bit awestruck with the turnout.
"It's unreal. It's awesome for women's hockey, it's awesome for us, it just shows how much pride Madison has for their sports teams and it's pretty cool to be a part of it,” she said.
For perspective, Andy Baggot of UWbadgers.com reported that Friday’s 14 NCAA Division I women’s games, including the 2,161 that showed up at LaBahn drew a total of 8,321 fans.
Dave Dondoneau is a freelance writer based in Honolulu. Follow him on Twitter at @DakotaHi.