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Minnesota Women’s Hockey: NCAA Championship Q&A With Bucky’s 5th Quarter

A look into the Badgers

The last time the Gophers and Badgers faced off in the Frozen Four in 2016

At 1:30 Sunday the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers will face off in Hamden, Connecticut. One team will come out the 2019 Women’s Hockey NCAA Champion, and one will go home in tears of agony. These two rivals have already faced off five times this season with this being lucky number six. There is not much Minnesota does not know about Wisconsin or vice versa. But just in case we asked Bob Wiedenhoeft the women’s hockey writer for Bucky’s 5th Quarter to fill us in on a few more details about the Badgers and how they will try and stop Minnesota from knocking them out of the Frozen Four for the fifth time since 2012.

TDG: Will there be anyone in the arena on Sunday who won’t know exactly what Wisconsin plans to do against the Gophers and vice versa considering this is the 6th time they will play this season?

B5Q: Nope. If there’s one thing that successful coaches do, it is preaching consistency. And certainly Brad Frost and Mark Johnson are about as successful as you get in the sphere of coaching. I don’t expect either to flinch and get away from what makes their teams what they are. Expect Wisconsin to take high volume shots after setting up the offense hoping for rebounds at the net. Also, expect extremely patient power plays. If Wisconsin gets anxious on the first power play, that might be a point of concern.

TDG: Wisconsin ended their NCAA Tournament losing streak to Minnesota with their quarterfinal win in Madison in 2018, but do you think there is any lingering inkling of Minnesota still in their head after knocking the Badgers out in the Frozen Four in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016?

B5Q: The Clarkson game went absolutely perfectly for Wisconsin. It was a tight game for 53 minutes which, and it scored four goals in the last 7 minutes. All of this was against a team that, two years ago, upset one of the best Badger teams ever in St. Charles. I think that has lingered over more for this team than anything else. And they exorcised those demons in a huge way Friday night.

TDG: For Minnesota to win it will most likely need to be a 1-0 or 2-1 type of game. How would you say Wisconsin is the most vulnerable to being scored upon?

B5Q: It’s definitely transition and rushes. While Clarkson only had 14 shots in the semifinals, it had 5-7 golden opportunities in transition and odd-skater rushes. Wisconsin has a very stout defense, is disciplined, and protects Badger goalie Kristen Campbell. Against Clarkson, the Badgers were saved by the post twice, and Campbell otherwise did her job quite well. Minnesota is very skilled at forcing turnovers at center ice and making quick pushes. A couple of errant Wisconsin passes is all Minnesota needs to get to Campbell for a pair of goals without dealing with the pesky Badger defense.

TDG: Why do you think this Wisconsin team is different than the others who just couldn’t get over the final hump in recent seasons?

B5Q: One thing that I have noticed is how loose the Badgers were throughout the semifinals. I think that is very different than the previous few seasons when the Badgers were the better team (against Clarkson and Colgate), but seemed to be tight under pressure. Hockey is kind of like golf in that regard-- when you get tense and start aiming the puck your mechanics get all out of sorts. The locker room has been loose all year and seems to be managing the stress quite well.

Other than that, I wrote a few weeks ago why this team is positioned better to succeed in the frozen four. The first factor I want to highlight is that Wisconsin is a bit more top-heavy this season. Certainly the depth is there, but with a nationally televised game and TV timeouts, the fourth line is just not as big of a factor. To some extent the third line doesn’t matter as much either. The next factor is the Abby Roque / Sophie Shirley / Britta Curl line. These three have found chemistry this season and have blossomed. It’s rare that the freshmen (Shirley and Curl) play their best in the postseason, but that’s exactly what has happened down the stretch.

Also, this isn’t St. Charles in 2017 and they aren’t playing on warm ice thus nullifying any speed advantages Wisconsin had. Yes, I’m still bitter.

The most intellectually honest answer, however, is that this game is a complete coin-flip. I used to teach AP Stats, so I also know a coin flips favorably half the time.

TDG: What scares you the most about Minnesota?

B5Q: That if I’m ever there on a Sunday that the liquor stores will all be closed. (Editor’s note...Bob hasn’t been to Minnesota in a while!

Other than that, the women’s hockey team over there is just so so so so good. While Pankowski is narrowly the best player on the ice in my humble opinion, Pannek and the Potomak sisters are #2-4 on the ice. Also, I think Campbell edges out Sydney Scobee and Alex Gulstene. Therefore, if Pankowski cannot make an impact in the game and Campbell is just a little bit off, Minnesota has a significant edge. Minnesota is deep, extremely well coached, and it’s also a team that makes its own luck.

It’s my understanding this will be posted Sunday morning. If so, then The Daily Gopher readers will be pleased to know that the last two nights I have (likely) been plagued with horrible nightmares of Sarah Potomak scoring a game-winning short-handed goal in overtime. ::shudders:: this Bob?? God I love that Jersey Pop....

TDG: Final score prediction?

B5Q: Like I said before, coin flip. But why not be a homer?

Badgers win 3-1

Minnesota goal: Taylor Heise, Wisconsin goals: Presley Norby, Emily Clark, Sophie Shirley

For the version of this where Gopherguy05 answers questions about the Gophers, you can check out the link HERE.

For a Badger perspective on the game as it happens you can follow Bob on twitter at @rwiedenhoeft and Bucky’s 5th Quarter at @B5Q