The now No. 2 ranked University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team (26-3-1, 16-3-1 WCHA) is coming off of a disappointing series split against Minnesota State in Mankato. The loss the team suffered in the second game of the series led to the Badgers’ drop in national rankings from the No.1 spot to No. 2.
This week will be only the sixth week of the season in which the team has not occupied the top spot. Their drop in the rankings should provide ample motivation for the team in this weekend’s series against The Ohio State University (17-8-5, 10-6-4).
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The Badgers and the Buckeyes faced off earlier in the season in a series that saw Wisconsin handle Ohio State with ease, outscoring the Buckeyes 10–3 in two games. Though the Badgers escaped Columbus with two dominating victories, Ohio State is a formidable opponent that has played well in WCHA play, sitting third in the standings behind Wisconsin and Minnesota.
With a sweep of Ohio State, Wisconsin can clinch a regular season conference championship and the number one seed in the postseason tournament.
Coming into this matchup, Ohio State ranks in the middle of the pack in just about every conference statistical category. A large percentage of their offensive production comes from junior forward Emma Maltais who has scored 50 points so far this season — good for fourth in the conference.
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The only three players in the WCHA who have scored more points this season than Maltais reside in Madison. Junior Daryl Watts leads the Badgers and the whole conference with 66 points in 30 games. Behind Watts are fellow Badger forwards Sophie Shirley and Abby Roque with 54 and 51 points, respectively.
This series is especially important for Watts as she can strengthen her case for the Patty Kazmaier Award. This highly coveted award is given annually to the best NCAA women’s hockey player in the nation. If she is to take the award home, she would be Wisconsin’s sixth winner — tying Harvard for the most all time.
This series is the final home series of the regular season for the Badgers. They will have the opportunity to close their regular season home schedule off right with Sunday’s game being an endeavor to “Fill the Bowl.”
This is a unique experience for the Badgers as the Kohl Center holds almost eight times as many spectators than LaBahn Arena and will be packed to the brim.
In 2017 against St. Cloud State, Badger hockey fans helped set the NCAA attendance record for a women’s hockey game at 15,359 in the Kohl Center. They will undoubtedly look to match this number Sunday in a pivotal conclusion to the regular season against the Buckeyes.