After having to postpone their last six games because of injuries and a COVID-19 breakout within the team, the University of Wisconsin-Madison women’s hockey team (1-1-0) recently announced an updated schedule for the second half of their season. First up for the Badgers is a series on the road against Minnesota State (2-5-1) this weekend.
Despite not playing for the past month and only having two games under their belt, the Badgers remain atop the USCHO rankings as the best team in women’s collegiate hockey.
In those two games –– the first and only series Wisconsin has played so far –– the team took away one win and one loss in a series at Ohio State, stumbling out of the blocks with an opening day 3-2 loss before rebounding with a 5-0 win.
On the other hand, Minnesota State is fresh off a series against Bemidji State on Dec. 17 and 18. After losing in a shootout in the first game of that series, the Mavericks used goals from five different goal-scorers to win the second in a back-and-forth game against BSU, 5-3.
The Badgers have a strong history of beating the Mavericks, holding an all-time record of 89-3-3, including winning nine of the last ten meetings between the teams. However, that one loss came in the teams’ previous matchup –– Minnesota State beat Wisconsin 3-1 last season.
The Minnesota State team is anchored by freshman forward Jaime Nelson. Nelson leads the team in both goals (4) and points (7), recording three goals and two assists in the Mavericks’ two wins this year.
Defensively, however, Minnesota State has struggled. Allowing over three goals per game on average, the Mavericks have yet to record a shutout and have had to play from behind in all but one game this year. The Minnesota State goaltending duo of Sophomore Calla Frank and freshman Lauren Barbro have combined for just a .871 save percentage. In contrast, graduate transfer Kennedy Blair has a .953 save percentage this year.
Wisconsin should be able to win both of these games handily; however, there are some keys the Badgers should follow to ensure the victories.
First and foremost is a quick start. As mentioned earlier, the Badgers struggled out of the gate in their first game of the season. Not only the game as a whole, but especially in the first period where Wisconsin was outshot 16-9 and found themselves in a 1-0 hole just five minutes into the period. Playing off their backfoot, the Badgers would finish that game outshot by Ohio State, 36-24. In their next game against the Buckeyes, the Badgers would flip the script by outshooting Ohio State 30-28, including 17-9 in the first period, winning the game 5-0 with two of those goals coming in the first period. If Wisconsin can assert their dominance early in these games, they should cruise to a series sweep of the Mavericks.
On the defensive side, keeping Nelson and the rest of the Minnesota State first line at bay will be crucial. Nelson, Claire Butorac and Sydney Langseth have a combined 15 points this season as a line. Keeping them out of the scoring column will help out the Badgers greatly.
Both games will start at 2:07 p.m. and will be available to stream through FloHockey.tv.