The University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team is well on its way to winning its third consecutive national championship. Mark Johnson’s club is yet again proving themselves as one of the best teams in the country and despite a few slip-ups lately, they are far and away the favorites to take home the women’s college hockey crown once again at the end of the season.

Here is everything you’ve missed and everything to come for the Badgers.

The Badgers have been led by a deadly top line of Daryl Watts, Casey O’Brien and Makenna Webster. Watts, a former Patty Kazmaier Award winner and arguably the most talented player in all of women’s college hockey is currently second on the team in goals (16) and points (35).

Webster is tied with Watts with 35 points, but Watts claims a slight edge as the team’s assist leader with her 20 helpers on the year. O’Brien might just be the front-runner for the Patty Kazmaier Award at this point in the season as her goals not only lead the team but the entire nation. She is third in the nation with 39 points and her shooting accuracy of 0.206% is also near the top of college hockey.

This line has been by far the best scoring line in America this season as they have combined for 52 goals and 109 points between the three of them. The three are the main reason for Wisconsin’s impressive average of 4.33 goals per game — second in the nation. They will continue to have to lead a relatively inexperienced Badger team for the rest of the year.

On the back end, Nicola Lamantia is having one of the best seasons by a defender in all of college hockey. Her 21 points have her fifth on the team and she has been one of the most trustworthy defenders that Mark Johnson has.

Her partner, Chayla Edwards, has had an equally impressive defensive season. While she has yet to put a puck in the back of the net, she has been invaluable on the Badger blue line.

The top defensive pairing of Grace Bowlby and Katie Kotlowski has been fantastic for Wisconsin. Bowlby, the team captain, has maintained her role as one of the best shutdown defenders in college hockey. In addition, Bowlby has remained active on the offensive end with 15 assists through 24 games.

Kotlowski is a sophomore from Minnesota who has gained significant trust from head coach Mark Johnson this season. She has earned her role as the team’s starting right defender and she will be the leader of the blue line for years to come in Madison.

Behind them is senior goalie Kennedy Blair. Blair, a Mercyhurst University transfer, has been the team MVP this season. Blair ranks near the top nationally in almost every major statistical category for goalies.

Blair started in all but two games for the Badgers and nearly single-handedly won multiple games for Wisconsin. Blair’s season has been nothing short of incredible.

Wisconsin started the year as well as they possibly could have. They won their first 12 games and were undefeated in their first 16. In these 16 games, they averaged an outstanding five goals per game while surrendering less than one goal per contest. Granted, these games were against primarily lesser competition, but mixed in were sweeps against top-five ranked Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State squads.

The Badgers established themselves as the best team in college hockey by the time the calendar flipped to December, but a weekend set with arch-rival Minnesota changed that.

When the Gophers visited LaBahn Arena as the fifth-ranked team in America, they shocked the hockey world by stealing the series with a game one victory and a tie in game two. This served as a bit of a humbling point for a Wisconsin team that had yet to really be tested in the early season.

The following weekend, the Badgers dismantled conference foe Bemidji State before heading into a three week break for the holidays. On the flip side of the break, the Badgers welcomed second-ranked Quinnipiac to LaBahn Arena where the Cardinal and White took game one and tied game two in what was another test to see where the Badgers stood going up against some other of the nation’s best.

After an exhibition against UW Eau-Claire and a COVID cancellation against St. Thomas, the Badgers finally returned to the ice against Minnesota once again. Wisconsin lost both games in Minneapolis and, for the first time this season, dropped from their number one spot in the rankings. 

While the consequences of the struggles against Minnesota are far from dire, it will make winning the WCHA difficult for the Badgers with Minnesota holding a firm advantage in the head-to-head matchups. Making the NCAA tournament is nearly a sure thing for Wisconsin right now, but winning the WCHA for the third straight season is far from it.

Fortunately for the Badgers, better days seem to be in front of them. They still have matchups with lowly WCHA foes St. Thomas and St. Cloud State, a weekend against a beatable Minnesota State Mankato club and series against Ohio State and Minnesota Duluth teams that they have already taken down. 

While it will be more difficult after the losses to Minnesota, Wisconsin still remains fully alive in the race for the WCHA. They will most likely need wins in three out of four contests against Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State and handle business in all of their games against St. Cloud State, St. Thomas and MSU Mankato.

In addition to that, the Badgers will need some help from Ohio State, as they take on Minnesota in Columbus. If the Buckeyes can take at least one of the two games against Minnesota, the Badgers will be right back in front of the pack in a heated WCHA race.

As far as NCAA tournament seeding goes, Northeastern is the current number one team in the country and they have not lost since October 9. While there are some difficult games remaining on the Huskies’ schedule, it seems more likely than not that Northeastern will enter the NCAA tournament as the top seed.

Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth make up the next four teams in the current rankings, meaning that the WCHA regular season standings and tournament results will most likely decide seeding for the rest of the top seeds.

This adds even more emphasis to Wisconsin’s two games against Ohio State in Columbus the last week of the season. Not only will a potential WCHA title be on the line, but a significant jump in NCAA tournament seeding could be as well.

Wisconsin is in a great spot entering the final stretch of the season. Their 18-3-3 record is one of the best in America and they are undefeated against everyone besides Minnesota. With some winnable games up on the schedule, they should regain some good form before crucial series against Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State at the end of the year.