The University of Wisconsin women?s hockey team has six games left to play in the regular season, and in all likelihood they will need to win every one of them to capture the WCHA title.
The No. 5 Badgers are headed up north this weekend to play their first-place rival, the University of Minnesota-Duluth (24-3-1, 21-3-0 WCHA), which UW trails by eight points for the conference lead.
Despite trailing in the conference race, the Badgers (20-6-2, 16-4-2) still control their own fate when it comes to a conference championship. UW ? currently on a 10-game winning streak ? will claim at least a share of the league crown by winning their remaining six games.
?We do have control of our destiny,? head coach Mark Johnson said. ?We are right where you want to be at the end of the year. We have an opportunity to win the conference, and that is all you can ask for. It is just up to us to execute.?
?We like the pressure,? goaltender Jessie Vetter added. ??Control your own destiny? is a good motto for our team, and it gives us confidence that we should win every weekend, and I think our team has embraced that.?
The Badger-Bulldog rivalry was brought to a new level earlier this season when UMD swept UW at home and stole a game from Wisconsin in the last 40 seconds.
?We always go into a Duluth series wanting to win both games because of that rivalry,? Vetter said. ?We beat them in the National Championship, then this season they beat us at home. It will definitely be a bit of a bonus if we can sweep them on their ice.?
The Bulldogs, however, have the highest scoring offense in the WCHA and the second highest scoring offense in the nation at 4.14 goals per game. The Badgers, on the other hand, give up the fewest goals per game in the WCHA and the second fewest in the nation at 1.18 goals per game.
Last time these two teams met, Wisconsin was able to hold Minnesota-Duluth under its season average, but UMD was still able to pull off the sweep, winning 3-1 and 3-2.
?We have to utilize what we do well,? Johnson said. ?We need to have puck possession, utilize our speed and try to create some pressure down in the offensive zone. If we are playing down on their end, then they are not trying to score, so that will be key.?
?Duluth is just a very tricky team,? Vetter said. ?They like to dangle a lot and play as individuals, but you have to be aware that they are talented and anything can happen. We can stop them if we are mentally prepared and don?t give up the easy shots.?
The Badgers? offense has been on a tear of their own lately, averaging four goals a game during their last 10-game winning streak. Bulldogs goaltender Kim Martin is one of the top goaltenders in the conference, however, giving up just 1.35 goals per game. Still, UW believes they will fare better this time around because many of their freshmen have gained valuable experience that they did not have the last time these two teams met.
?Since we played them last we have really come together as a team,? alternate captain Jinelle Zaugg said. ?We were still really young then, and we have matured and grown a lot since that series. I think they are going to see a different team this time.?