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Minnesota Women’s Hockey: #2 Gophers host #1 Wisconsin

#1 vs #2....yes again.

Brad Rempel—Gophersports.com

The #2 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team will look for revenge against the #1 Wisconsin Badgers in the second round of their Border Battle clash when the two teams face off this weekend. The Gophers will look to do to Wisconsin what the Badgers did to them three weekends ago in Madison where Wisconsin basically ran the Gophers off the ice in a 5-0 and 6-3 sweep. If Minnesota wants to hold to any change of a WCHA Regular season title, they need to come out and show the Badgers this weekend they mean business.

The Gophers return home after a split with #3 Ohio State in Columbus last weekend. The Gophers scored early and often in getting a 7-4 win on Friday with seven different goal scorers all putting the puck in the net. But, as has been the story with Ohio State for the last several seasons, the Gophers could not do the same thing the next day and OSU won a 3-1 game to grab a split of the series for the fourth consecutive time.

Minnesota is getting a wide variety of scorers this season, but doesn’t seem to have the offensive sniper that can rack up the goals like previous years. Grace Zumwinkle leads the Gophers with nine goals on the season, but has just three assists to also give her the team lead with 12 total points. Taylor Heise has six goals for Minnesota but has just ten total points on the season. Emily Oden’s nine assists of the year leads that category and gives her 11 points—good enough for second on the team. Minnesota is averaging just three goals per game, which is down nearly a goal from the 3.9 they averaged last season and the 4.1 the year before that. And that would be ok, but they are letting their opponents score more as well. Minnesota averages giving up 2.1 goals per game, more than the 1.7 a season ago and the 1.8 in 2018-19. It may seem like 0.3 goals per game is no big deal, but over the course of a season when one game can make or break where you finish in the toughest conference in women’s college hockey...it does.

Meanwhile the Badgers come in on a tear. They are just 8-2 on the season due to missing most of December with a COVID stoppage but have scored 25 goals in their last four games with two of them coming against Minnesota. Forward Daryl Watts was just named the National Player of the Month for January after she led the country with 18 points in eight games in the month. Freshman Lacy Eden has come on strong after beginning her collegiate career against the Gophers. She has played just four games but has a goal in each of the last three. The Gophers will have their work cut out for them.

This will be the 13th and 14th consecutive meeting between the Gophers and Badgers where at least one of the teams has been ranked #1 in the nation. This will be the 11th and 12th consecutive games between the two schools where it has been #1 vs #2. The last time it was not was October of 2018 when the #3 Gophers split a series in Madison against the #1 Badgers.

Minnesota needs to find a way to take the majority of the points from the Badgers this weekend if it wants to surpass them in the WCHA standings and make a run for the 31 overall seed. Wisconsin has won a total of .833 percent of their possible points this season putting them in first place. Minnesota is in second with a .692 average, but both UMD and Ohio State are right behind the Gophers above .600. Minnesota still has a series with the Buckeyes next weekend while Wisconsin ends the season with UMD, but unless the Gophers can find a way to take at least four points this weekend, it will be a very steep hill to climb.

In either case, it is likely this will not be the final matchup between these two teams this season—whether it be at the WCHA Final Faceoff in Minneapolis or the NCAA Frozen Four in Erie, Pennsylvania, its probably destiny to get at least one more Gopher/Badger battle.

HOW TO WATCH:

#1 Wisconsin Badgers @ #2 Minnesota Golden Gophers

Where: Ridder Arena, Minneapolis, MN

When: 6 PM Friday/ 4 PM Saturday

Stream: BTN+ ($$)

Radio: 96.7 FM/ I Heart Radio