After a tough weekend battle against the University of North Dakota, the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team finishes their Western Collegiate Hockey Association homestead against Minnesota State University, Mankato this weekend in Madison.
While the Badgers (22-2-1-0, 17-2-1-0 WCHA) have traditionally had a superb record against the Mavericks (6-18-3, 3-15-2 WCHA), with UW’s last loss to Mankato happening all the way back in 2010. But much has changed since the last time these two opponents saw each other.
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For starters, Wisconsin is potentially two defensemen down — both Mellissa Channell and Lauren Williams suffered injuries last weekend. UW Athletics has released no official word about either player, so their status this weekend is questionable.
This could mean Wisconsin is running with a dramatically different starting lineup than usual, and UW head coach Mark Johnson might have to get creative to have three full lines of forwards and defenders.
The one saving grace for UW is the fact senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens is going to be in net this weekend. With so much uncertainty facing the Badgers, having Desbiens’ constant presence in net means Mankato is still going to have a hard time putting up points this weekend.
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Mankato has really been struggling this year, especially against other WCHA teams. With only three wins in the WCHA, the Mavericks are out of the running for the conference’s playoffs this year.
While some might think of that as a blessing for Wisconsin, this also means Mankato has nothing to lose when it comes to this weekend’s matchup. They can make bigger plays, go for bolder moves with minimal consequences for the remainder of their season.
With one aggressive series last week leaving players battered and bruised, and less than a week to recover from it, the Badgers might not have the stamina or endurance to play another physical series this week.
This Friday’s game also serves as student night, and all UW students get in for free with a valid student ID. The advantage of having a large home crowd could just be the thing that seals the deal for Wisconsin.
Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m., and the weekend contest resumes Saturday at 3 p.m. Two more wins are critical for this UW team to keep their No. 1 ranking in the WCHA, so it is sure to be a nail-biter of a series.