The Wisconsin Women’s Hockey team wrapped up their regular season this past weekend and are headed into the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) playoffs against Minnesota State beginning Friday.
With the way their season went, the Badgers are favored to go far in the playoffs. But how did they get here?
While the regular season opener against Penn State was shaky for the Badgers, who lost 4-1, things started to heat up soon after. Wisconsin immediately began a nine-game winning streak, eventually putting them in the No. 2 spot in the country.
Throughout the early part of the season, Wisconsin was dominating, earning five or more goals in all nine wins except one. In their highest scoring game this season, and their second highest in history, Wisconsin scored 13 goals to Bemidji State’s one. The 12-goal gap was the largest in Badger history for a WCHA game.
January brought some bad luck for the Badgers, who had a five-game losing slump, but they were able to turn it around in late January and early February. While the season wasn’t perfect for the Badgers, it was still impressive and resulted in the No. 6 national ranking.
Along with the noteworthy season’s statistics, key players have given Badger fans hope for the playoffs as well. Rookies like Caroline Harvey and Laila Edwards have given Wisconsin the spark they needed this season.
Harvey’s notorious blue line shooting and scrappy defense paired with Edwards’s determination to break up plays from the opposing team and score give the Badgers an upper hand going into playoffs. Maddi Wheeler and Casey O’Brien also deserve acclaim for their play, either providing assists or multiple goal-scoring games.
Right now, Wisconsin’s biggest obstacle is maintaining their aggression throughout games. For the Badgers, many of their losses occurred in the final period of play. Wisconsin comes out strong but tires in the third period.
The first game against Ohio State this past weekend was a perfect example — although the Badgers did pull through and win — as Wisconsin was up 4-0 and ended the game in a nail-biting shootout after OSU came back in the final minutes.
To go far in the postseason, Wisconsin will have to maintain their unstoppable aggression throughout, which is obviously easier said than done. The tournament this weekend is a best-of-three. If Wisconsin wins the tournament, they will advance to the WCHA’s Final Face Off in Ridder Arena, home of the Gophers.
While Wisconsin is favored, this weekend is crucial and will determine what their postseason will look like. They have all the components needed to win but now must utilize them.
While it may seem obvious, their fate in the playoffs will depend on how well they maintain their aggression, teamwork and ability to convert goals.
If Wisconsin pulls through this weekend, they’ll have their eyes set on their biggest rivals — Minnesota and Ohio State.