After disappointing losses against Minnesota last weekend, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team is looking to come out on top against North Dakota this weekend. Saturday and Sunday, the ninth-ranked Badgers will face off against a team that sits one spot ahead of them in the rankings.
“North Dakota’s got some players that you have to be aware of when they’re on the ice,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “We will look at some video; we’ll make some adjustments from what we did last weekend and get ourselves ready. If we play at the same pace and the same tempo that we did last weekend against Minnesota, that should set us up to be successful.”
Playing the top-ranked team in Minnesota last weekend showed the team exactly what it has to do to beat the best. This weekend is an opportunity to pick up points in the rankings or even pull ahead.
But beating North Dakota won’t be an easy task with the Lamoureaux twins in their line up. The two sit third and fourth in the WCHA in points on the season, with Jocelyne with 21 and sister Monique with 17.
“I’m expecting to get a lot of shots, but it’s always fun playing against the Lamoureaux twins,” goaltender Alex Rigsby said. “It’s definitely going to be a battle for the win. It’s going to be good, solid competition.”
Since the Badgers are playing at home, they are already at an advantage with the fans on their side. Last weekend Minnesota’s Ridder Arena was packed with about 3,500 fans and the majority of them were cheering for the Gophers.
“The fans have been great,” senior forward Briana Decker added. “I think that sometimes it’s tough to get fans at a 2 o’clock game on a Saturday or on a Friday, but they’ve showed up. It gives us a lot of energy as players on the ice and we feed off that.”
The fans help make LaBahn Arena a more intimidating atmosphere and energy of the arena and with several players dealing with sickness, they are going to need the support of Badger fans.
Keeping the team healthy for the rest of the season is definitely going to be a factor in how the season turns out.
“It’s that time of year where their longevity of the season [is challenged], you’re coming up on exams and these are our last two games before break and so [it's] a lot of little things,” Johnson said. “Kids will miss practices now and then and when you take four or five kids out it makes it a little harder to do things, so it’s nice having to play Saturday and Sunday this upcoming weekend.”
Health issues are nothing new for the UW women’s hockey team. Last year, Rigsby underwent lower body surgery, taking her out of the season in the spring.
“I think it’s just been a completely different season for me, not having to worry about that stuff,” Rigsby said. “I think it makes a big difference not having to worry about if something’s going to flare up or anything like. I came off from a good summer of training so I’m feeling good this season so far.”
This season Rigsby has made substantial strides coming off surgery. In the Minnesota game on Sunday alone, Rigsby made 36 saves and is looking forward to this coming weekend as the Lamoureaux twins test her skills.
“It’s going to be tense, I mean both teams know what’s at stake and we’re neck in neck in the standings,” Johnson said. “We just have to come out very similar to the way we did last weekend, if we’re able to do that for six periods over this weekend we will have some success”