The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers women's hockey team (8-2) will travel to Minneapolis and take on the No. 2 Minnesota Gophers (9-4) in this season's second iteration of the Border Battle.
After sweeping St. Cloud State two weekends ago, the Badgers were off last weekend for a nice break between their two road series in the state of Minnesota.
For Minnesota, they come into this weekend after a split series with Ohio State last Friday and Saturday. The Gophers won game one over the Buckeyes 7-4 behind seven different goal scorers before failing to secure the sweep by dropping game two 1-3.
Wisconsin had been red-hot before their break, outscoring Minnesota and St. Cloud State 25-5 over the four games. That includes breaking the record for the most goals scored in a series against rival Minnesota when the Badgers put up five and six goals, respectfully, in their sweep over the then top-ranked Gophers.
Minnesota does hold an advantage in the all-time series, but Wisconsin has had the Gophers' number in more recent times, winning seven of the previous ten meetings between the teams. The Badgers have also matched their longest winning streak in the border battle with four straight wins.
The Gophers are led by senior Grace Zumwinkle, the team leader in goals with nine and the all-time Minnesota active scoring leader with 136 career points. If there will be a game-winning goal, it will likely come from Zumwinkle, whose three game-winners have her tied for the most in the nation.
It will be interesting to see who starts in goal for Minnesota. Lauren Bench has been the Gophers' go-to, but the senior netminder has allowed 13 goals over her last three starts – nine of those against the Badgers – resulting in her benching for Makayla Pahl instead. Pahl suffered the loss in the second game against Ohio State but saved a career-high 41 shots in the defeat.
Wisconsin's offense came alive during the first series with Minnesota and hasn't stopped since. The Badgers followed up the 11 goals they scored in their series against the Gophers by finding the back of the net 14 times during the series against St. Cloud State, including a 10-0 win in the first game of the series.
As per usual, senior Daryl Watts led the way, having quite possibly her best performance in the series opening game. The forward netted herself a hat-trick and assisted on three other goals for a six-point (!!) day. Watts would add two more points in the second game to bring her weekend total to eight, good enough to win WCHA Forward of the Week for the second week straight. Add that to the 10 points she had in the previous two series, and her NCAA-best 18 points were enough to be awarded WCHA Forward of the Month.
With Wisconsin ranked No. 1, this series will be the 13th and 14th straight meeting where one of the two teams held the top spot in the rankings.
The Badgers will hope to replicate what happened the last time these two faced off this weekend. Friday's game starts at 6 p.m. and Saturday's at 4 p.m.. Both games can be seen on BTN+.