This series has now been postponed due to COVID issues with Wisconsin. Minnesota is now done playing until January.
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Another week, another top five matchup for the Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team. After facing #5 Ohio State and #7 UMD this week the Gophers get the big one. The #3 ranked Gophers will host arch rival #1 Wisconsin Badgers in the first version of the Border Battle this season.
Minnesota enters the weekend series with a 3-1 record on the season and is in sole possession of first place in the WCHA with nine points. After splitting a home series with Ohio State the Gophers went up to Duluth and earned a hard fought sweep over the Bulldogs. Meanwhile Wisconsin split a series with the Buckeyes in Columbus last weekend for their first action of the season.
Minnesota has been led this season by grad transfer goalie Lauren Bench. Bench who came to Minnesota after three seasons with Bemidji State has won the WCHA’s Goalie of the Week in back to back weeks and on Thursday was named both the WCHA and NCAA Goalie of the Month for November. Through four games Bench has allowed just five goals accounting for a 1.26 goals against average and has made 126 saves on 131 shots resulting in a .962 save percentage.
Last weekend in Duluth Minnesota got a pair of points from Catie Skaja, Emily Oden and Abbey Murphy. Murphy scored her first collegiate goal to tie Friday’s game against UMD at 2, and then Anne Cherkowski answered with her first collegiate goal for the game winner a few minutes later for Minnesota.
Wisconsin opened their season in Columbus last weekend with a 3-2 loss on Friday, but found their stride and jumped out to a 5-0 win in Saturday’s rematch. Sophie Shirley picked up a pair of goals in the win.
Wisconsin will have an unfamiliar name in goal for the first time in several seasons. Kristin Campbell has graduated and the Badgers once again turned to the transfer market for her placement bringing in former Mercyhurst goalie Kennedy Blair. She will need to stop a Gopher offense that has struggled to score at times this season, but has also scored in rapid spurts at times.
Wisconsin will look to keep their recent superiority over the Gophers. The Badgers are 6-3-1 in the last ten against Minnesota after the Gophers dominated the several seasons prior to that. One reason has been the success of Wisconsin to find goal scorers. Besides Shirley Wisconsin has Daryl Watts who was the preseason pick for WCHA Player of the Year. She led the conference in points with 74 a season ago and is masterful with the puck on her stick.
This series will be the final two games for Minnesota in 2020. The Gophers were originally slated to head to Columbus for the return series against Ohio State next weekend, but the WCHA announced on Thursday that series would be postponed to 2021 due to the Buckeyes not having enough healthy players to field a team. According to Wisconsin beat writer Todd Milewski, the WCHA requires 15 players of which one must be a goalie in the women’s game. The Buckeyes have 17 skaters and four goalies on their roster.
Following up on this: The WCHA says its protocols for the minimum number of players are 15 (one of which has to be a goalie) for women's games and 13 skaters and a goalie for men's games.— Todd Milewski (@ToddMilewski) December 3, 2020
OSU has 17 skaters and 4 goalies on its women's roster. https://t.co/h3QySj1f1N
Thus Minnesota will end 2020 after this weekend while the Badgers still have series against UMD and for the moment Ohio State scheduled the next two weekends in Madison before their year comes to an end.
This week could end up meaning nothing, and this weekend could determine the WCHA champion...its been that kind of decade when the Gophers and Badgers get together.
#1 Wisconsin Badgers @ #3 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Where: Ridder Arena, Minneapolis, MN
When: 6PM Friday, 4 PM Saturday
Stream: BTN + ($$)