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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Defenseman Grace Bowlby handles the puck as the Badgers take down top-ranked Minnesota.

Wisconsin welcomes top five matchup as homecoming present


The No. 4 Wisconsin women’s hockey team (20-3-4) will take on No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth (17-8) this weekend at La Bahan Arena, returning to Madison for the first time since Jan. 10.

The Badgers are coming off five straight games in the state of Minnesota, where the number four ranked team in the country went 2-2-1, including two lackluster performances against St. Cloud State and a sweep at the hands of rival Minnesota.

Wisconsin will be on relatively short rest though, after playing a makeup game against bottom of the conference St. Thomas this past Monday instead of the normal weekend-only matchups. 

The Badgers were able to squeak out a win over the Tommies 3-1 in the rare Monday game, ending their four-day weekend with seven points.

After a scoreless first period against St. Thomas, senior Sophie Shirley got the scoring going early in the second, sending one past the Tommies’ goaltender while on a breakaway 38 seconds into the period to put Wisconsin up 1-0. A cross-ice pass from Grace Bowlby found Brette Pettet, who tipped it ahead for Shirley in a beautiful display of hockey.

The Badgers looked to have all the momentum and were ready to break out like they did twice earlier in the season, but they just couldn’t get the puck into the back of the net to gain full control. Despite outshooting St. Thomas 22-3 at this point, the Tommies found the equalizer against the run of play as forward Anna Solheim picked up an errant pass at center ice and finished the one-on-zero breakaway opportunity by flicking one past Wisconsin’s Cami Kronish.

The goal didn’t deter the top team in the WCHA. After a barrage of shots that just missed the goal and two faceoff wins, sophomore Makenna Webster showed off some great puck handling along the left-side boards before finding an open Daryl Watts on the right goalpost for an easy tap-in goal. The 2-1 Badger lead would prove to be too much for St. Thomas to overcome, giving Watts the game-winner.

An empty-netter for the fifth-year forward with 13 seconds left in the third period would give Watts her second goal and the Badgers a 3-1 win.

Surprisingly, Minnesota-Duluth will be on even shorter rest this weekend.

The Bulldogs played a makeup game of their own on Tuesday, taking down St. Cloud State 5-1 on the road.

It was a three-point game for the Bulldogs’ Elizabeth Giguere, as the senior recorded one goal and two assists in the afternoon.

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After killing off an early roughing penalty, UMD went on the attack in the first period. Giguere led that attack both figuratively and literally, picking up a puck in the neutral zone to start a two-on-one breakaway for the Bulldogs. The fifth-year baited the Husky defender toward her before laying off the puck to Gabbie Hughes, who tapped in a shot to send the Bulldogs into the lead.

The scoring would take a break for the rest of the first period but would add to their lead early in the second. 

Just 16 seconds into the second 20 minutes of play, Kylie Hanley would double the Minnesota-Duluth lead, converting a three-on-two break with a goal off a lovely one-time pass from Giguere. A bouncing puck ended up in the goal, and Giguere found the back of the net herself to bring the Bulldog lead to 4-0 heading into the final period.

A Clara Van Wieren goal put UMD up 5-0 before St. Cloud State pulled one back in garbage time to end the game with a 5-1 scoreline.

For Wisconsin, locking down Giguere and Hughes will be vital this weekend. The two forwards are first and second on the Bulldogs in goals, assists and points. Keeping them in check while allowing the WOW — Webster, Casey O’Brien and Watts — line to do what they do best could prove to be the key in sweeping Minnesota-Duluth for the second time this season.

Friday’s tilt will start at 7 p.m. and Saturday’s at 8 p.m. Both games can be seen live on B1G+.

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