This past Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers (33-4-2, 18-4-2 WCHA) defeated the Syracuse Orange (13-22-3, 10-8-2) in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. With a score of 4–0, the Badgers dominated the Orange just as they had earlier in the regular season.
But the Orange certainly performed better at LaBahn than in their previous matchups on Wisconsin’s home ice. While the Orange were held scoreless by a stout Badger defense and a stunning performance from goalie Kristen Campbell, who thwarted all 15 shots from the opponent, they also held the Badgers to fewer goals than in their previous matchups.
This was expected from the Orange, as they were the lower seed coming into the NCAA Tournament that undoubtedly looked to put an early end to the Badgers’ promising season. Yet the Badgers prevailed by virtue of a two-goal performance from senior captain Annie Pankowski, as well as goal contributions from Abby Roque and Presley Norby.
With a win over Syracuse, the Badgers are slated to take on No. 4 seed Clarkson (30-7-2, 16-5-1 ECAC) in the 2019 NCAA Frozen Four semifinal. Clarkson narrowly defeated the No. 5 seed Boston College in the quarterfinals, only triumphing after an overtime goal that resulted in a 2–1 final.
The Golden Knights have not faced off against the Badgers yet this season, and could prove to be their toughest non-conference opponent all season. With a stellar season record, the Golden Knights performed well enough to earn their spot as the No. 4 ranked team in the nation heading into the postseason.
On one hand, the Golden Knights have one of the strongest records in all of college women’s hockey. On the other, they have enjoyed casual conference competition in the ECAC compared to the Badgers’ tough opposition in the WCHA.
Clarkson was only one of two teams within the ECAC ranked inside the top ten in the country at the end of the regular season, while the WCHA boasts the top two teams in the nation with Wisconsin and Minnesota. Furthermore, Clarkson did not finish the season at the top of their conference rankings, as both Cornell and Colgate edged them out in total points following the conclusion of conference play.
Given these considerations, Clarkson’s current ranking is due primarily to its late-season success. Winning 16 of their last 19 games, the Golden Knights mounted a stunningly successful campaign to close out the regular season, and have continued this success into the postseason.
Women’s hockey: No. 2 Badgers capture WCHA title, clinch No. 1 seed in NCAA TournamentThe No. 2 University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team (34-4-2, 19-1-2 WCHA) defeated both No. 9 Ohio State (20-13-2, 12-10-0) Read…
It is for this reason that Friday’s matchup will be a clash of two of the hottest teams in the nation. Despite having not won a weaker conference than the WCHA, the Golden Knights are playing with a momentum that stems from a long stretch of consistent wins.
The Badgers similarly have momentum at their backs as they build upon their success in the WCHA tournament earlier this month. Clarkson is an opponent that will have the ability to be one of Wisconsin’s greatest challenges of the entire season. If the Badgers are to come out on top, they must be firing on all cylinders as they have over these last few weeks.
Were the Badgers to defeat the Clarkson Golden Knights, they would advance to the NCAA Frozen Four final against the winner of Friday’s matchup between Cornell and No. 2 Minnesota.