The University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team will welcome North Dakota to Madison for the first time ever this weekend as the Fighting Sioux and Badgers finish their inaugural regular season series on Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center. The Sioux (7-14-3, 4-13-1 WCHA), who are only in their third season of play and first season in the WCHA, fell victim to the Badgers in Grand Forks, N.D. earlier this season when the Badgers overwhelmed North Dakota 5-1 and 7-2 on Nov. 20 and 21.
In the series the Badgers defense suffocated the North Dakota offense and rarely allowed it any opportunity to move the puck into the offensive zone.
The Badgers (16-5-1, 10-5-1) limited the Sioux to only 11 shots in game two. After the stellar effort, the Badger defense was recognized as senior defenseman Nicole Uliasz was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week.
Although the Badgers enjoyed a very successful weekend against North Dakota earlier, they are not taking the Fighting Sioux for granted.
“They are a great-working team and a very young program, obviously. Just a few years ago, we were in their shoes and they have a bunch of girls there who are willing to give you a good effort and give you a run for your money,” team captain Carla MacLeod said.
The Badgers should have no problem finding motivation to play this weekend, as they are coming off one of the more difficult and hard-to-swallow losses in the program’s history, losing a two-goal lead against Minnesota-Duluth with less than five minutes to play last Saturday.
“It was heartbreaking to lose that one, but you learn from those experiences and hopefully move onward,” MacLeod said. “We have had a great week of practice, and I think we are going to be okay.”
Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson is also eager to see how his team will react on the ice after the emotionally draining loss.
“Friday night will be a good test to see how we respond from what happened to us last weekend. Hopefully we will come out from that first period with a lot of bounce and energy,” Johnson said, also mentioning the productive practices the Badgers have had this week. “We’ve had as good practices as we have had all season.”
The Badgers will once again look to deny the Fighting Sioux any rhythm on the offensive end with the group of defensemen that constitute maybe the strongest defense in the WCHA. The Badgers also will have a hot goaltender on their side as Meghan Horras was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for her play last weekend.
Horras and the Badger blue-liners will be charged with stopping the North Dakota “twin” threat of Cami and Cara Wooster. The twin sisters are among the most impressive freshmen in the NCAA this season and rank second and third in the WCHA in rookie scoring. The Wooster’s have scored 19 and 18 points respectively, with Cami notching 11 goals and eight assists and Cara tallying eight goals and 10 assists. Melissa Dianoski is yet another dangerous freshman for the Sioux, having scored five goals and six assists this season and is further evidence that North Dakota is a team on the rise.
The Badgers will also have to deal with a depleted roster as sophomore goaltender Christine Dufour is injured and sophomore forward Lindsey Macy won’t play for disciplinary reasons. Macy was not allowed to play in Saturday’s contest against Duluth and has not participated with the team in practice since.
The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. for both games.