The Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team returns to action with two games against Penn State this Thursday and Friday.

Last season was one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory for Wisconsin. For the first time in eight years, they were on the outside looking in at the Frozen Four, where they watched their conference rival Ohio State hoist the national championship trophy.

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But despite last season’s disappointment, Wisconsin will once again have one of the most talented rosters in the country. With a handful of Olympians and some of the most talented and proven players in college hockey, expectations are as high as ever in Madison.

Here’s what to know about the Penn State Nittany Lions before the games.

Playing Penn State is an exciting way to start the 2022 season for Head Coach Mark Johnson’s team. While Penn State isn’t exactly a powerhouse, its rise to success has been impressive over the last few years.

The Nittany Lions have yet to make an NCAA tournament, but they won their conference in 2021 and had an impressive 2022 campaign under Head Coach Jeff Kampersal, now in his sixth season in Happy Valley. Penn State projects to be an above-average team this year, as they are ranked 14th in the United States College Hockey Online preseason poll.

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Leading the Nittany Lions this year will be last season’s CHA player of the year Kiara Zanon. Zanon, a junior forward from New York, has already had quite the career at Penn State. After her freshman season, she was named the AHCA National Rookie of the Year, as well as honored as an All-AmericanIn her second year, she was once again outstanding, scoring 39 points in just 33 games.

In net for the Nittany Lions is another Rookie of the Year honoree from the 2020-21 season. Josie Bothun, like Zanon, was also named a national honoree after her first college campaign.

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Bothun picked up where she left off in her sophomore season and had another dominant year for Penn State. She holds a handful of different goaltending records for Penn State, including wins and shutouts. In addition to these two stars, the Nittany Lions return 13 other players from last year’s roster.

Penn State will be a big test for the Badgers on the season’s opening games as they try to prove they can hang with teams at the national championship level.

Expect a high-energy, high-intensity series as Penn State will be fighting for relevance all weekend.

Ultimately, the Badgers are the stronger team. Wisconsin should leave Pennsylvania 2-0. But early season games have a tendency to produce unexpected turnouts, and a motivated Penn State team will look to take advantage of a Badger team full of new faces.