Coming off a season-opening sweep of the Lindenwood Lions, No. 2 Wisconsin (2-0-0) will look to keep things rolling as UW heads into Duluth for its WCHA opener.
The Badgers will be at full strength when they square off with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (1-0-1) at AMSOIL Arena this weekend, getting back five players who missed the series against Lindenwood while attending an event for the Canadian national team.
Among those who will be making their season debuts in Duluth are senior forward Blayre Turnbull and sophomore goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. For Turnbull, it will be her first series since being named team captain during the offseason.
“It means a lot. To have the team vote for it and the coaches make the final decision means a lot,” Turnbull said. “But there’s a lot of other girls on the team who are great leaders too. It’s not a one-person job.”
Despite missing several key players, Wisconsin had no problems against the Lady Lions. Six different individuals scored goals and 10 players total recorded an assist in the sweep of Lindenwood, which included impressive performances from senior forward Karley Sylvester and freshman forward Annie Pankowski.
Sylvester was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week after scoring two goals and recording four assists, while Pankowski earned WCHA Rookie of the Week honors thanks to a strong showing in the final game of the series, where she tied a UW single-game freshman record with four assists.
Senior forward Katy Josephs also was solid, leading the team with three goals.
“For me personally, one of my goals was to get a lot of shots on net,” Josephs said. “I just focused on the little things. I’m moving my feet and then just trying to get the puck to the net, and a couple of them went in.”
The Badgers will be facing a Bulldogs team this weekend that has posted a mediocre 29-31-10 record over the past two seasons but one that has still played tough whenever the two teams have faced off. Wisconsin holds a 5-2-1 advantage against Minnesota-Duluth in the past two years, but none of the games have been decided by more than two goals.
“[The Bulldogs] will be hungry,” UW head coach Mark Johnson said. “Nobody likes to go through a season when expectations are high and you don’t meet those expectations.”
Minnesota-Duluth kicked off its season on the road against Connecticut, winning one game and tying the other. Though the Bulldogs weren’t able to pick up a win against the Huskies in the opening game, they did rally back from a 3-0 deficit at the end of the first period to get the tie. They followed that up with a 3-0 victory in the second and final game of the series.
Sophomore forwards Ashleigh Brykaliuk and Lara Stalder each scored a pair of goals against Connecticut for Minnesota-Duluth, which now turns its attention to a big conference-opening series against the Badgers.
With both teams off to solid starts to their respective seasons, Johnson doesn’t expect this weekend’s series to be short on excitement.
“History tells us that when we play each other, they’re usually pretty good games,” he said.