Coming off a sweep of Bemidji State last weekend, the No. 1 Wisconsin women’s hockey team (4-0-0-0 WCHA, 10-0-0 overall) will battle the Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-1-0-0 WHCA, 9-1-0 overall) this weekend. The two Border Battle rivals will face off at Ritter Arena in Minneapolis.
Last weekend, senior forward Abby Roque earned her 21st point after scoring off a rebound on Sunday’s game in the series against the Beavers. Roque leads the country with 139 faceoff wins, and ranks second in the country with her four power-play goals.
The Badgers currently have a 17-game winning streak, and look to continue that this weekend.
Last time these two faced off, the Badgers beat out the Gophers 2-0 in the NCAA Championship game, with goals by former seniors and captains Sophia Shaver and Annie Pankowski. With that win, the Badgers claimed their fifth national title.
“They’re gonna be ready to play us, that’s for sure, and they’re gonna want some revenge for last year,” Roque said. “We need to be on our game for that.”
With four days of practice between unranked Bemidji State and No. 2 ranked Minnesota, the Badgers hope to prepare fully for the intense battle ready to ensue. The Golden Gophers split their series last weekend against No. 9 Ohio State with a 4-3 loss the first game, and a 4-2 win during their rematch. The Badgers anticipate the Gophers to bring their all this weekend, not only for last year’s championship game, but also to get back on track for this season.
This will be the two team’s first meeting of the year, with the Badgers have bested the Gophers in nine of their last 12 games. Of those matchups, two have been in the NCAA tournament, and one in the WCHA Final Faceoff.
“This Border Battle is special to our team, to the league, to the NCAA,” Roque said. “I think it’s one of the biggest rivalries in women’s hockey. It’s really fun to play in, and it’s always better to come out on top so hopefully we can.”
Sophomore forward Sophie Shirley is going into this weekend on fire with a five-game scoring streak, and leads the NCAA with her 10 goals this year. The 2019 WCHA Rookie of the Year has racked up 28 points this season and is second in the NCAA in points; beaten only by her fellow lineman Daryl Watts, who leads the NCAA with 38 points.
Because of her previous knowledge about the Gophers from last year, Shirley is laser-focused on tomorrow’s game.
“The Gophers are obviously going to be a huge test,” Shirley said. “It’s No. 1 and 2, so it’s going to be a high [ranked] game.”
While the Badgers have had four days of practice to physically prepare for the Border Battle, they also have to prepare mentally for Minnesota’s home atmosphere.
“[The fans] don’t boo us as much as, I guess, they could,” Roque said. “They’re a good crowd for Minnesota. They obviously bring the energy for them, and you just have to be able to create our own energy and feed off of that, and feed off our own bench.”
The rivals will play at Ritter Arena on Saturday, Nov. 2, with a rematch on Sunday, Nov. 3. Puck drop for both games will be at 2:07 p.m..