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Tuesday, December 07, 2021
Annie Pankowski

Annie Pankowski and the Badgers will play North Dakota this weekend in the WCHA playoffs.

UW gears up for postseason conference tournaments

With winter sports regular seasons wrapping up, postseason preparations are in full swing.

Women’s hockey

Wisconsin skated to victory last weekend, sweeping St. Cloud State by a combined score of 9-2 in the two-game series. Next up, the No. 4 Badgers will travel to North Dakota Saturday in hopes of winning the WCHA Final Face-Off.

“We took the first step by beating St. Cloud in back?to?back games,” said head coach Mark Johnson. “Now it’s an opportunity to go up and play in a semifinal game knowing that if you lose you’re going to come home.”

According to Johnson, the team is looking forward to the challenge that awaits them in Fargo, N.D., Saturday. “A lot is at stake, a lot on the line and I think the players are excited for the opportunity.”

Johnson noted the importance of maintaining steady heads because of North Dakota’s desperation to earn a win and salvage hopes of competing in the Frozen Four.

“It’s a fun time of year and certainly we’re going to run into a little bit of a hornet’s nest Saturday as we start the game because of the scenario,” Johnson said.

In four head-to-head matchups this season, the Badgers defeated North Dakota three times and tied once.

Men’s hockey

A lackluster season thus far has not yet sunk the Badgers’ hopes at salvaging the year. As the team prepares for an upcoming two-game series at Michigan State, head coach Mike Eaves addressed questions at his weekly press conference regarding the state of the Badgers’ morale.

“When you lose a couple games like that where you have a chance going into the third period and you come away empty there is a taste in your mouth that is not pleasant,” Eaves said.

However, the team has remained together despite the accumulation of tough losses.

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“I would say one of the reasons that we are having the continued growth that we have is because of the fact that everybody is there for each other,” Eaves said.

As of late, the Badgers have been playing better which resulted in consecutive wins against Ohio State and Michigan State in mid-February.

Despite a disappointing year by Badger standards, an optimistic Eaves assured that the program would soon return to its winning ways.

“When this all comes together we will have something special,” he said.

Wisconsin has four regular season games left on the schedule before the team will head to Detroit for the conference tournament March 19-21.

Wrestling

After a strong regular season, Wisconsin has shifted its focus toward the postseason.

During his weekly presser, head coach Barry Davis discussed the magnitude of several key wrestlers including sophomore Ryan Taylor, sophomore Isaac Jordan and junior Connor Medbery.

The Big Ten released its conference tournament seedings Monday, with Taylor and Jordan receiving No. 2 seeds and Medbery getting a No. 1. However, Davis remained focused on the team’s ambitious goals.

According to Davis, competing in such a tough conference has helped prepare the team for success in the upcoming weeks.

“The Big Ten will help, and it does prepare you for NCAA Championships, because you are in battles week in and week out, wrestling the best kids, so when you see them at the next level, it’s like another match,” Davis said.

The team will open up Big Ten Championship play Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

“Guys are going to need to be successful, win close matches or take downs when they really matter or hit the mat, not big things, small things will be the key to winning,” Davis said.

Women’s basketball

Wisconsin broke a six-game losing streak Sunday when junior guard Nicole Bauman led the team to a 62-56 win over Penn State.

Head coach Bobbie Kelsey shared her excitement as the team gears up for postseason play.

“We are excited to start the third phase of our season, which is postseason,” Kelsey said. “Obviously we didn’t finish as strong as we wanted to with the last six or seven games, but we got this last one and it was a good boost to our confidence knowing that we could finish a game instead of losing it and letting it get away from us like we have done in the past.”

Kelsey also recognized the importance of Bauman’s scoring contributions to this year’s success. The junior from New Berlin is averaging 15.1 points per game and was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention.

According to Kelsey, the key to success in postseason play starts on the defensive end, noting that the team needs to “get the defense caught up with the scoring.” Wisconsin has been outscored by an average of six points per game in Big Ten play.

The Badgers will tip off against Purdue at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

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