For the second weekend in a row, Minnesota will be sending a No. 1-ranked hockey team to Madison to take on Wisconsin, only this time, it’s the women’s hockey team.
The top-ranked Gophers (28-1-1 overall, 22-1-1 WCHA with 67 points) come into town to square off against the No. 2 Badgers (23-3-2, 19-3-2 with 60 points) in a Minnesota-Wisconsin border battle.
Coming off a weekend sweep of Ohio State, the Badgers look to continue their seven-game win streak heading into this weekend’s matchup against the Gophers.
With senior night festivities arranged for Friday night, it will be a bittersweet evening for the seniors.
“You take four years and you get all of these memories rushing through your brain and certainly each one is memorable,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson in a press conference Monday. “You get a lot of mixed emotions and certainly it will be a special night for their family members … you realize how fast time goes by.”
The two teams last faced off in mid-October, with Minnesota sweeping the two-game series.
When asked about what has changed for his team since the first series, Johnson talked about the development of younger players for both teams, as well as the excitement that comes with playing games of this magnitude.
Second-ranked Wisconsin enters the game looking to contain the high-powered Gopher attack, one that averages 4.80 goals-per-game. The Badgers will turn to senior goaltender Alex Rigsby, who yields only 0.962 goals per game, to accomplish this challenge.
Johnson recognized the potency of the Minnesota offense, but also pointed to the stinginess of its defense, noting that “[the Gophers] defend well” and “don’t give up a lot of opportunities.”
He also emphasized that, in order for his team to have a chance at beating the Gophers, “you have to play real good, disciplined hockey” and “certainly have to capitalize on your opportunities.”
Wisconsin is hoping to “Fill the Bowl” on Saturday evening at the Kohl Center in an attempt to break the NCAA attendance record, a record the Badgers currently hold dating back to January 2012 when 12,402 fans attended a game against Bemidji State.
By offering $1 tickets to the public, as well as free admission to students who show their student ID, the UW Athletic Department is hoping to create a lively atmosphere for what is certain to be an exciting game in the eyes of both Minnesota and Wisconsin fans.
Johnson was asked how having a big crowd might affect the players, to which he talked about “managing nerves” and stating that “after the first couple of shifts hopefully they’ll settle down and just focus on the task at hand.”
The UW Athletic Department is also using this opportunity to ask those who attend the game to bring non-perishable food items to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank.
“Everybody is a winner in the evening,” Johnson said about not only giving back to the community but also having the opportunity to play in the Kohl Center in front of such a large crowd.
The Border Battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin always proves to be intense and hard fought, and this weekend’s series between the Gophers and Badgers will be no different.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday night at LaBahn Arena, and the series finale Saturday night will also start at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center.