After playing a tough home series against No. 9 Ohio State last weekend, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team (5-0-1, 1-0-1 WCHA) will travel to Minnesota to play two games against another tough opponent, St. Cloud State.
The Huskies (1-2-1) have started their season well, tying Minnesota 4-4 in their first game and beating them 2-1 in the second. They should provide strong competition for Wisconsin this weekend.
Wisconsin and St. Cloud State met four times last season with the Badgers going 2-0-2 in those games.
"[St. Cloud State has] played Duluth, they played Minnesota, so they have played two very quality teams early in the season," head coach Mark Johnson said. "They know they play us tough, and they will come out Friday night with everything they have got. It will be a good series, they skate well, and they present a new challenge."
"St. Cloud is always a good team," goaltender Jessie Vetter added. "They are coming off a weekend where they tied and beat the Gophers, so they will be pretty confident heading into this weekend. You can never look past St. Cloud; they will always be competition for us."
Wisconsin goes to St. Cloud with a 32-game unbeaten streak, the longest in NCAA history. The Badgers suffered their first setback of the season last weekend, however, tying Ohio State 2-2 in the second game of the series.
"I think it could be a blessing in disguise, in the sense that it isn’t a loss," captain Emily Morris said. "It could serve as a wake-up call, that we are not going to win every game because we are supposed to, but we actually have to work and come to play."
"It is our first challenge," Johnson said. "It is early in the season and comes at a good time, because you are going to have obstacles, and you are going to have hurdles to climb over. It was encouraging (being) that down a goal in the third period (that) we were able to come back."
The Badgers will be looking to improve in several areas from the series with the Buckeyes when they face the Huskies this weekend. One reason the Badgers failed to earn a victory and settled for a tie was a loss of focus and intensity that has marked the team so far this season, something UW hopes will not happen again against the Huskies.
"I think we had a five-minute breakdown in the second game," Morris said. "We just got lazy and lost our focus, so I would like to see us improve upon that and not have those costly short breakdowns."
The Badgers’ success this season can be contributed to the continual progress of their talented freshmen class. The freshmen played a key role in the Ohio State series, scoring three of the six goals for UW. The newcomers will have to continue their contributions if Wisconsin is going to have success this weekend.
"I think [the freshmen] are doing pretty well," Johnson said. "We have been through our first bout of exams, which is always tough to get through. Most of them seem comfortable, smiling and having a good time right now. They have adjusted pretty well to everything that has been thrown at them this season."
The team’s leaders have noticed all of the freshmen’s hard work as well.
"They are doing everything the coaches have asked of them," Morris said. "They are fitting in on their lines and skating hard. They are all great kids, fun to be around, and they are great hockey players."
The Badgers will have a chance to extend their unbeaten streak starting Friday, with a 7 p.m. faceoff at the National Hockey Center.