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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Column: What does the road to a two-peat look like for women’s hockey?

After completing its 13th win in a row, the Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team looks to close out a dominant season with a second consecutive national championship.

The Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team completed a season sweep over Bemidji State with a combined 17 goals in 10-0 and 7-0 wins Friday and Saturday. With these two decisive wins, the Badgers hold their fate in their hands as they head into the final stretch of the season.

The Badgers are scheduled to host No. 5 Minnesota at LaBahn Arena this Friday and Saturday, and they will face off against top-ranked Ohio State the following week to conclude the regular season. Wisconsin is determined to avenge their earlier season sweep by Ohio State in Columbus. If Ohio State loses to both St. Thomas and Wisconsin in its remaining games, the Badgers would secure the WCHA title as Wisconsin possesses a superior conference record over Ohio State.

The Badgers haven’t lost since December at Minnesota, and all but three games since then have been decided by three or more goals. Wisconsin will hopefully use this momentum to beat both Minnesota and Ohio State in the following weeks. If they win, the Badgers will hold on to the No. 2 national ranking heading into the postseason and earn a bye during the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Whittemore Center in New Hampshire in March.

So who exactly has contributed to the success of this formidable team and paved a path to a favorable postseason? Let’s start by looking at the country’s leading point scorer, Kirsten Simms. 

The Michigan native leads the NCAA in points per game. Acquiring 25 goals and 31 assists thus far in the season, Simms finished the triumphant weekend against Bemidji State with seven points, three of which came from a hat trick Friday. Simms has contributed at least one point in all but four games so far this season, and just six more points will double the 32 points she obtained as a freshman last year on the championship team. Her expertise as a playmaker and point scorer will be crucial for the Badgers if they wish to finish the season strong. Given her performance this season, there is no doubt she can lead the Badgers to defining and victorious wins over Minnesota and Ohio State. 

Another force to be reckoned with on the Badgers is forward Lacey Eden. Eden joined the Badgers in 2020 after completing an unparalleled high school hockey career at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota. She tallied a monumental 111 points in 50 games her senior season and is currently third in the country for goals scored in the NCAA. Eden was key to Wisconsin’s win in the two-game split over Minnesota Duluth back in December, obtaining two of the three points that occurred at LaBahn. Eden, along with her teammate Britta Curl, both represent the U.S. women’s national team and will have to use their experience playing against the best women’s hockey teams in the world in order to beat Minnesota and Ohio State. 

Mark Johnson is also an integral part to this team’s success. As head coach of the Badgers since the 2002-03 season, he is the winningest coach in NCAA collegiate women’s hockey history and has led his team to seven NCAA championships, a record among every team in the country. His experience as a professional hockey player and dominance as a collegiate hockey coach sets him apart from other coaches in the postseason. 

The Badgers won the NCAA tournament last year as a No. 6 seed, defeating LIU, Colgate and Minnesota before entering the championship game, where they pulled off a shutout win against the top-seeded Ohio State. 

If Wisconsin were to win again this year, they would hold two championships over Minnesota, who holds the second most NCAA women’s hockey titles, and three over Minnesota Duluth, who pulled off a three-peat when the tournament first aired in 2001. 

The Badgers’ performances in the last 13 games speaks volumes about the team and what the playoffs will look like for Wisconsin. With arguably the best collegiate women’s ice hockey player and two national team members, Wisconsin has all the tools to successfully cap off an unmatched season and continue to solidify themselves as one of the most successful women’s ice hockey teams ever. 

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