An intense weekend of competition awaits No. 1 University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team as they take on fierce rival No. 2 ranked University of Minnesota in the first border battle of the season.
Last year, for the first time since 2011, the Badgers (14-1-1-0, 10-1-1-0 WCHA) swept the Gophers (13-1-2, 11-1-2 WCHA) at home, showing a revitalized approach to a typically stoic border battle. Traditionally, Wisconsin was considered lucky if they managed to get one win out of this hallowed weekend, let alone two.
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The Badgers ended their season with a 3-3 record against the Gophers by the end of the 2015-16 season, with both teams winning their homesteads against the other.
While Wisconsin would go on to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association matchup against Minnesota, they would find themselves losing to the Gophers during the semi-final round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Frozen Four tournament.
A lot has changed since the last time these two teams met on the ice. The Gophers graduated two key players, goaltender Amanda Leveille, and forward Hannah Brandt. Back in Madison, UW parted with eight players, including defender Courtney Burke and forwards Rachel Jones and Erika Sowchuk.
The Badgers walk into this weekend with a relatively inexperienced team at the helm, with six of their current starters having limited action against the opposing team. While this inexperience might be seen as a curse, it also means that the Minnesota veterans have six new playing styles to figure out.
One of the biggest questions looming over this notorious rivalry is the mystery of who will guard the net for the Badgers this weekend. Wisconsin’s star goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens has been absent from net for the last two weeks.
In a news feature about her replacement Nikki Cece, UW Athletics revealed that Desbiens has been suffering from an injury caused back in October, when the goalie took a knee to the head from a Minnesota State University-Mankato player.
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Since that weekend, Desbiens has yet to play a single game for the Cardinal and White. This decision might be last minute, as was the case last weekend against Cornell University, when Cece was thrown in the night of the game.
The border battle will begin Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and then again Sunday at 2 p.m. Both games will be broadcasted on BTN Plus, and fans can keep up with live statistics on the UW Athletics website.