After losing in the NCAA Championship less than one year ago, the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team will get its first shot at revenge since the 4-2 defeat to Minnesota.
Saturday will mark the first border battle between rivals No. 10 Wisconsin (10-4-2, 6-4-2 WCHA) and No. 1 Minnesota (16-0, 10-0) since the March contest in Duluth.
Junior forward Madison Packer said she is looking forward to the matchup but doesn’t see the game as an opportunity for revenge.
“Obviously those of us that were [in the national championship] last year, we lost; it sucks and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” Packer said. “But, this year I think it’s a different team. Obviously we want to win but if its revenge for last year or not we just want to get the ‘W’ this year.”
The Golden Gophers picked up right where they left off in the 2011-2012 season by winning all their contests this season, making them deserving of their No. 1 national ranking.
Minnesota has not lost a game since February, when it was downed 2-1 by North Dakota in overtime.
Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said it is UM’s speed which makes it so effective, and he said he knows his team will have to adjust to it.
“Obviously this will be the best team we have faced all year,” Johnson said. “The speed of the game is going to be the thing we haven’t seen yet. They’re probably the fastest team in the country. It’s tough to duplicate that in practice. So, the first three, four or five shifts of the game [the players] will get a feel of what we are talking about.”
Wisconsin will be faced with the task of slowing down Minnesota’s explosive offensive attack, which has scored an impressive 30 goals in its last five games.
The Gophers’ biggest threats offensively are forwards Amanda Kessel and Hannah Brandt, who have 20 and 18 goals on the season, respectively.
Freshman defenseman Courtney Burke, who will be facing Minnesota for the first time in her career, said she knows UW’s defense will have its hands full this weekend.
“We just have to be big in the defensive zone,” Burke said. “We have to watch out for their main players and not let them mess around and dangle through us and then we will be strong defensively.”
After a slow start to the season, losing five out of its first eight games, Wisconsin has been rolling lately, winning seven out of its last eight contests.
Packer said the team is gaining more confidence as the season progresses, which is translating into more wins.
“I think that we have a lot of confidence,” Packer said. “I think a lot of our younger players have gotten a few weekends under their belt and a little more experience, which helps. I think we are clicking a little better now after a few series.”
Most recently, UW came away with a series sweep over WCHA foe St. Cloud State last weekend.
Wisconsin was able to put 12 goals on the board, allowing just three against the Huskies. The team has scored 22 times in its last five games.
Burke said she is happy with the way the team has been playing lately and knows the Badgers need to keep it up if they want to come out with a couple of wins in Minneapolis.
“We are really clicking and we are scoring,” Burke said. “Obviously we scored a lot last weekend, which is good. So I think we just have to carry that over to playing Minnesota because they are a really strong team offensively and defensively. So we need to just keep scoring and shooting.”
Johnson said he is excited for the trip to Minneapolis and believes the series will give a good indication of just how good his team is right now.
“When we play [Minnesota] whether it’s up there or here, in the playoffs or some of the national tournament games, it’s just fun,” Johnson said. “They have a good team and we generally have a good team. The energies will be high. They will be psyched to play us and all fired up. So it will be a challenge for us and it’s a good measuring stick as we wind up the first half of the season.”