For the first time in school history, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team will play on a Thursday night. For the fourth time this season, they will hope to rebound from a series split.
Following last week’s disappointing 1-1 home split against Robert Morris, the Badgers will look to stop the trend against Wayne State.
Much like the Colonials last weekend, the Detroit-based Warriors come into the series with three wins against a much bigger and faster Wisconsin team. Unfortunately for the Badgers, they have played at the level of their opponent each weekend — a trend forward Brooke Ammerman says the team needs to end soon.
“We played maybe some weaker teams that have been surprising us a little bit,” Ammerman said. “We need to come out ready to play. Hopefully, we’ve learned our lesson.”
Although Wisconsin will outmatch almost any team they play in terms of talent, three of their four losses this season have come against teams with losing records. According to Ammerman, the disappointment following last year’s national championship team has added motivation for the team.
“These four losses are kind of a surprise for the people who have been here a little bit longer,” Ammerman said. “So I think we just have to come out hard Thursday night and expect to win.”
Wayne State also has a losing record, but three of its losses have come against ranked teams. The Warriors will use the same style of play Robert Morris and Bemidji State perfected when they upset the Badgers. To counter Wisconsin’s speed, both teams often put five people in front of their net and dumped the puck and chased it on offense. It is a method that will give UW plenty of scoring opportunities, but the shots on goal may be not be quality chances.
According to forward Kyla Sanders, Wisconsin’s inability to respond to the different style is due to the way they approach the games.
“We’re not ready mentally,” Sanders said. “Every team is coming after us with nothing to lose, so we just got to come out confident, knowing we can beat them.”
With less preparation time than normal this week, the Badgers took practice to the next level to make sure they are ready when the puck drops Thursday night. According to interim head coach Tracey DeKeyser, the intense practices and short rest have taken a toll on the squad.
“We’re trying to cover a lot in a little span of time,” DeKeyser said. “It’s difficult with young payers to have a fine balance between teaching conditioning and recovery.”
In their previous meetings, Wisconsin has posted a 5-0-0 record against the Warriors, but the last time the two teams met was in 2006. According to Sanders, the team is looking forward to playing a new opponent.
“We’ve never played Wayne State since I’ve been here,” Sanders said. “It gives us a chance to work on new things as a team.”
The team has been in flux since freshman Brianna Decker went down in her second career game against North Dakota. Without the highly-touted recruit in the lineup, the Badgers have changed the lines almost every game.
“You can’t overlook the scoring power or potential that she has,” DeKeyser said of Decker. “She’s a gritty, hardworking player that obviously would have a great impact right away.”
In order to avoid another letdown, the team needs to get off to a quick start, something the team has struggled to do this year. Even though the team has won six games on the year, it has trailed early in the majority of its games this year. The Badgers’ first step to a quick start will be stopping Wayne State’s Katrina Protopapas, who has six goals this year and scored against No. 1 Mercyhurst.
Until tonight, Wisconsin will still be wondering if they need to change their preparation for opponents.
“I’m not sure if it’s a question of motivation or a question of not understanding our opponents completely,” DeKeyser said.