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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Brittany Ammerman

Forward Brittany Ammerman leads the Badgers in goals this season with five. She is third on the team in points with nine.

Women's Hockey: No. 1 UW, No. 2 Minnesota face off in showdown

Ranked No. 1 for the first time since the 2011-’12 season, Wisconsin has turned its focus to this weekend’s monumental series against the very team it supplanted at the top of the polls: Minnesota.

The Badgers (4-0-0 WCHA, 6-0-0) are prepared to take on the No. 2 Golden Gophers (1-0-1, 3-0-1) this weekend at LaBahn Arena in a showdown between the top two teams in the Division I rankings.

But if UW is to stay at the top of the polls, it’ll have to find a way to beat a team it has struggled mightily against in recent years.

Wisconsin has lost 11 consecutive games against its border battle rival, with the Badgers’ last win over the Gophers coming Oct. 14, 2011. Their last meeting came in the semifinals of last season’s Frozen Four, where the Gophers earned a 5-3 comeback victory after scoring three goals in the third period.

For players like redshirt senior forward Brittany Ammerman, losses like these provide a little extra motivation heading into this weekend.

“We only have five of us seniors that have beaten Minnesota,” Ammerman said. “We want everyone else to feel what it’s like (to beat Minnesota), and I think this year, as a whole, we’re good enough to do it.”

Though the Badgers have struggled to beat the Gophers recently, UW head coach Mark Johnson pointed out that they were far from the only team to have a tough time against Minnesota over the past three years.

“They’ve got our number, and they’ve got everybody else’s number, too,” Johnson said. “Two years ago they didn’t lose a game. Last year they only lost in the national championship game, and North Dakota beat them earlier in the year.”

However, this could be the season that a team like the Badgers could potentially overtake Minnesota atop the WCHA standings, especially with star Gophers forward Amanda Kessel out for the season.

Kessel, who won the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2013 as the country’s top women’s hockey player, is still dealing with symptoms of a concussion suffered while playing with the U.S. women’s national team.

The Gophers still entered the season ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls despite Kessel’s injury, but were passed by Wisconsin following a weekend series against Minnesota-Duluth.

Minnesota defeated the Bulldogs in the first game of the series, but only was able to get a tie in the next contest.

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As a result, a team other than Minnesota is ranked No. 1 in an in-season poll for the first time since March 5, 2012.

The Badgers, on the other hand, have outscored opponents 30-4 this season and are riding a six-game winning streak, the longest in the country, into this weekend’s series.

UW is coming off a sweep of Ohio State in which seven different players scored and sophomore goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens shut out the Buckeyes in both games. For her efforts, Desbiens was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week and is riding a wave of confidence heading into her first start against the Gophers.

“I’m really excited about (playing Minnesota),” Desbiens said. “It’s going to be a fun weekend.”

It’s a sentiment shared by her teammates and Badger fans everywhere, and Johnson believes that this has all the makings of an incredibly exciting weekend.

“We have Minnesota coming in this weekend for a 7:00 game Friday night and then turn around and play them 3:00 Saturday afternoon,” he said. “History tells us when we get together with the Gophers, it’s usually a very entertaining series.”

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