The No. 16 University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (6-6-0, 1-3-0 Big Ten) will play their second straight Big Ten series on the road this weekend against the University of Minnesota (4-6-2, 1-3-2).
The Badgers have remained inconsistent in their play but consistent in their results — they are coming off of their fourth split weekend in six weekends this season. Minnesota will serve as the first non-ranked opponent that Wisconsin has faced since their second game of the year and their first of three matchups in a row against unranked teams.
This weekend may appear as a relief for the Badgers, but the Golden Gophers should not be taken lightly despite their early-season struggles. Minnesota has not had a losing season since the 2009-2010 season and their rivalry with Wisconsin has not skipped a beat. The stakes are high this weekend, as a gaping opportunity is presented for both squads to ascend in the Big Ten standings and, more importantly, not slide too far in the rankings.
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The two teams have told a very different tale offensively. Wisconsin is currently second in the Big Ten in goals and ninth in goals per game in the nation. The Badgers also have a top 15 powerplay in the country, scoring on just over 23% of opportunities with a man advantage. Minnesota, on the other hand, has had an ineffective powerplay and is scoring less than 2.5 goals per game.
Four forwards for the Badgers average over a point-per-game: Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte, Linus Weissbach and Roman Ahcan. Of these four, Caufield has the ninth best goals per game average in the nation and Turcotte has the tenth best points per game average in the nation.
Defensively, however, both teams have had trouble keeping the puck out of the back of the net. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota have allowed the most and second-most goals allowed in the Big Ten. Despite these problems, both teams have done very well in the penalty killing department.
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Minnesota’s inability to produce offensively combined with their struggles defensively bodes well for the Badgers. For the Badgers to prove that they are a top team in the country, the offense and powerplay needs to execute, and the defense needs to be a force against a weaker offensive unit. We will see if Wisconsin can find a groove early in their grueling stretch of Big Ten opponents.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST both Friday and Saturday. The games can be viewed on FSW on Friday and FSW+ on Saturday and listened to live on WIBA on Friday and WTSO on Saturday. Both games can be followed live on Twitter @BadgerMHockey.