After disappointing road series against Minnesota, Badgers look to get back on track against Minnesota State

The Badgers fell to No. 2 in the most recent poll, after losing both games to Minnesota last weekend.

The Badgers fell to No. 2 in the most recent poll, after losing both games to Minnesota last weekend.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Fresh off of a bye week, the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team (4-1-1 WCHA, 10-1-1 overall) are back home at LaBahn Arena to face off against the Minnesota State Mavericks (2-4-2 WCHA, 6-4-2 overall). 

This will be Wisconsin’s first series since losing and tying against the now No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers in St. Paul two weeks ago. The 4-2 loss on Saturday, and the 2-2 tie on
Sunday that resulted in a Golden Gophers shootout victory were Wisconsin’s first games this season without a victory.

Minnesota State, on the other hand, is coming off of a home sweep last weekend against Merrimack College. The Mavericks were anchored by their leading goal scorer in junior forward Mariah Gardener, who tallied four total points over the course of the weekend. Freshman forward Kelsey King, who leads the team in points, added four points of her own against the Warriors.

The Badgers swept Minnesota State last year on their way to the national title while the Mavericks floundered and finished with a 9-19-7 record. The aggregate score was 15-4 in favor of the Badgers.

But, Wisconsin is unlikely to count out the Mavericks based on an off year in 2018. Minnesota State has fresh legs and new firepower in King and sophomores with a full season under their belts like goaltender Abigail Levy and defenseman Claire Butorac.

The matchup between the pipes this weekend is likely to be an x-factor for either the Badgers or Mavericks. Redshirt senior goaltender Kristen Campbell has stood on her head all season long for the Badgers. She leads the WCHA in goals allowed and winning percentage. In Minnesota State’s net, Abigail Levy is far from the bona-fide star that Campbell is, but has risen considerably since last year. Levy is 4th in the WCHA in goals allowed and is third in save percentage, higher than Campbell.

Maintaining consistency on the Badgers’ front line is something that has been vital to Wisconsin’s victories this year, and also something that has proven to be relatively simple for them. Junior forward Daryl Watts, senior forward Abby Roque, and sophomore forward Sophie Shirley are the WCHA’s top three scorers this year; Watts leads the way with 29 total points, an unprecedented 2.42 points per game. The top line’s chemistry has only grown stronger over the course of the season as well.

Ultimately, this game could come down to the effectiveness of Wisconsin’s power play. The Badgers are first in their conference in power play goals, shooting at an unreal 47.5 persent clip this year, more than double than the second-best team. In what seems like a match made in heaven for the Badgers, Minnesota State leads the WCHA in penalty minutes, and places fourth out of seven with their penalty kill numbers. Something for the Badgers to keep an eye on is the shorthanded goal, which the Mavericks lead the conference in.

Saturday’s game begins at 2 p.m. at LaBahn Arena, while Sunday’s rematch will start at 3 p.m.. Each game will be available for streaming on BTN+.

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