The battle for the border is coming to Madison. This weekend, the No. 20 University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (4-4) welcomes their neighbors to the northwest, the No. 16 Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-3-1).
It is the first Big Ten match up for both teams this season, and, with the rivalry being as hot as ever between the two schools, it’s sure to be an exciting series. But the Badgers need to find their rhythm again after a disappointing series at North Dakota last weekend.
The Golden Gophers have struggled to find their rhythm as well this season, picking up only one win so far. This weekend they’ll be looking to pick up a series win after losing two in a row to Minnesota State in their previous series.
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The games this weekend are important for both teams not only because they are their first Big Ten matchups of the season, but also because the series represents a longtime border fight tradition between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Currently, the Golden Gophers have a substantial lead with a record of 168-94-23 over the Badgers. The Gophers improved that record last year by beating Wisconsin three to one in the series.
This weekend, the Badgers are looking for the chance to add two more games to their win column and their conference resume. With the Golden Gophers on the hunt for the same, it is sure to be a fun weekend of hockey.
Here are a few important aspects to note for the series:
Against North Dakota last week, freshman goaltender Lebedeff recorded the highest number of saves so far this season, coming off the ice with 30 saves for the Badgers. Having a young player show this much talent against strong teams is not only good news for the Badgers this season, but also for the team as they move forward in the next four years. If Lebedeff and the other goalies can continue to build on their momentum we should continue to see strong saves and plays from the Badger’s final piece of the defense.
Last weekend, part of the Badgers struggle came from the amount of penalties they had to work through. Both Head Coach Tony Granato and Lebedeff were asked about the penalty trouble in their post-game interview with UW Athletics.
Lebedeff said it’s challenging to win because of the considerable trouble with penalties. The Badgers must stay out of the box this weekend, as they’ll need all the help they can get against Minnesota.
The Border Battle
Yes, this is the “border battle,” but it’s also an important series against a higher ranked Big Ten matchup. Not getting caught up in the energy of the fans will be key for the Badgers. So far this season, the team has stayed cool in stressful situations. As long as they can continue that against the first big rival team of the season, it should be an exciting weekend of hockey against the Golden Gophers.
Games will take place Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center, with live coverage available on Fox Sports Wisconsin.