This weekend showcases a matchup between the two best teams in the nation as the No. 1 University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team takes on the No 2. University of Minnesota, Duluth at LaBahn Arena.
The Badgers (26-2-1-0, 21-2-1-0 WCHA) are ringing in Valentine’s Day and senior weekend with one of their hardest matchups so far this season. The last time these two teams met, the Bulldogs (20-4-4, 17-4-3 WCHA) and the Badgers both walked away with a win on the weekend.
The Bulldogs have improved quite a bit since the last time these two teams met. Originally ranked No. 4 in the nation, Duluth has managed to defeat some tough opponents to earn themselves the second-place spot.
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Of course, Wisconsin has also made some changes since the teams last met. Last time, goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens was out of commission, having sustained a concussion two weeks prior.
The Badgers played freshman goaltender Nikki Cece, in what would be her first game in her collegiate career. After a rough night, in which the Badgers fell to Duluth 4-1, Cece and the rest of her team rallied to earn her first victory in the NCAA and WCHA.
Unfortunately, the Badgers still seem to be without senior defenseman Mellissa Channell, who has been out with an undisclosed upper body injury since Jan. 22. No one knows if Channell is finally healthy enough to start, but since this is senior weekend, hopefully Channell will be able to skate in her last regular season home game.
This senior weekend is also special for Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson, who is not only saying goodbye to his senior class, but will also be standing next to his daughter, forward Mikayla Johnson, as fans congratulate her for her great career.
The Badgers will be graduating five other seniors, along with Johnson, this weekend. Fans will say thank you to Desbiens, Channell, Sarah Nurse, Sydney McKibbon and Jenny Ryan Saturday afternoon. Emotions in LaBahn are sure to be high as fans and staff thank this senior class for four incredible years of hockey.
Sunday’s game, which falls on Valentine’s Day, is sure to be a little more lighthearted. Both contests are currently sold out, which marks the ninth and tenth time this year that the Badgers have played a sold-out match at LaBahn.
Saturday’s contest begins at 2 p.m., while Sunday’s game starts at noon. Both games can be viewed on Big Ten Plus, and live audio is available on uwbadgers.com.