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Wisconsin hoping to wrap up WCHA

first_imgFor the first time since Nov. 28, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team will be entering a series without the top ranking in the country. After a crushing defeat at the hands of St. Cloud State last Saturday, the Badgers dropped one spot, despite having more wins than the current No. 1 squad, New Hampshire.Unfortunately, the Badgers (24-3-1, 19-2-1 WCHA) don’t have time to worry about rankings this weekend as they prepare for their Border Battle against No. 5-ranked Minnesota. The Golden Gophers (19-8-1 overall, 14-7-1 WCHA) are coming off back-to-back overtime thrillers against in-state rival Minnesota State. However, despite the two game win streak by Minnesota, there is no doubt that the Badgers will be entering this weekend’s series with a world of confidence following their road sweep of the Gophers in mid-November.”Well the confidence level should be high, we’ve had a good season up to this point, we’ve only lost three games and we were on a pretty good streak there until we ran into a hot goaltender against St. Cloud,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “We should be confident but at the same time be ready to understand that Minnesota will be looking to take back what we took from them in Minneapolis.” Adding more sensation to this weekend’s match up is the possibility of the Badgers clinching their first ever WCHA regular season crown — a feat that will only be accomplished if the Badgers sweep the Gophers.”It’s funny, the word ‘if’ has only got two letters, but yet you can take it in a lot of directions, so I leave that up to the fans,” Johnson said. “We need to be concerned with playing well and winning Friday night. When that game is over we analyze, we prepare and get ourselves ready for Saturday.”When comparing the overall statistics of the WCHA rivals, the similarities are staggering. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin average over 30 shots per game and both are committed on the defensive end — holding their opponents to under two goals per contest.However, defenders of both squads will not have an easy task this weekend as Minnesota and Wisconsin both have prolific offensive attacks led by some of the nation’s elite scorers. Minnesota sophomore Erica McKenzie is sixth in WCHA scoring with 25 goals, while the Badgers have four forwards, Sharon Cole, Angie Keseley, Jinelle Zaugg and Sara Bauer among the top fifteen. While this weekend’s series will surely be a test for both squads, Johnson feels that the X-factor will be a struggling Wisconsin power play that went 0-7 last weekend against St. Cloud.”One area that needs to come through for us more is the power play,” Johnson said. “We had some chances up there and we did a pretty good job on most of the power plays but the object is to get the puck in the net because that’s what wins games.”While the coveted border battle has a longer history in other sports programs, women’s hockey is no stranger to the intensity that results from a Minnesota-Wisconsin showdown.”The rivalry has always been around,” assistant captain Nikki Burish said. “Since I started my freshman year, they have always been a good team and we have always been a little behind, but I think sweeping them earlier in the year makes it even more meaningful because they’re going to come fired up and we will be waiting for them.”Also noteworthy, Johnson needs one win to reach 100 career victories — a feat he would certainly like to accomplish against Minnesota.”I know when I was on the men’s side and I remember when I was a player, when you came to practice Monday and that weekend you were playing Minnesota the pace was a little bit quicker and the intensity was a little bit higher,” Johnson said.”In our profession numbers add up for and this one has come upon us playing against Minnesota, it would be nice. It would be real nice.”last_img

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