The #5 Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team will look to bounce back after an embarrassing loss last Saturday when rival and current #1 team in the nation the Wisconsin Badgers come to town. Minnesota took five of six points form the Badgers in Madison in November including giving Wisconsin their lone loss of the season, but the Gophers will need to find that form once again to try and battle back a Badger team hell bend on revenge.
Minnesota comes into the weekend after an embarrassing split with Minnesota State. The Gophers picked up an easy 7-2 win in Mankato on Friday, their 53rd consecutive in the series between the two schools. Then that streak was snapped in an incredibly lackluster performance by the Gophers Saturday resulting in a 5-4 Minnesota State win over the Gophers—their first in nearly 15 years. Lauren Bench was pulled from the game after allowing three goals on eight shots and replaced by Makayla Pahl would would take the loss after giving up the fourth and fifth goals, the final one in overtime.
Meanwhile, the Badgers have not played since January 2nd getting a win and a tie at home against #4 Quinnipiac. Their series last weekend against St. Thomas was postponed due to COVID issues with the Tommies. Wisconsin is 18-1-3 so far this season with their lone loss and one of the ties coming to Minnesota in Madison in November. But the Badgers are out for revenge according to goaltender Kennedy Blair:
Kennedy Blair has payback on the mind this week against Minnesota.— Todd Milewski (@ToddMilewski) January 19, 2022
"I know I came in and made a few mistakes here and there. I'm definitely looking forward just to have the revenge on them and hopefully get to win."https://t.co/8xTKxPc22U
The Badgers have a right to be confident. Since 2016 Wisconsin is 16-6-6 against Minnesota with six of those wins at Ridder Arena. Prior to their collapse in November, the Badgers had been unbeaten in the last 8 games against the Gophers, and currently are unbeaten in nine of the last ten. Add in the fact that the Badgers have signed two Minnesota native recruits this winter that were previously committed to Minnesota before deciding to desert their home state’s team for it’s rival...and well a friendly rivalry this is not.
Wisconsin is locked in a battle with Ohio State atop the WCHA and Minnesota is fighting with Minnesota-Duluth for the third place spot in the league, so both teams could really use the points this weekend. If the team that meat the Badgers in November comes out, it could be good news for the Gophers. If the team that we saw last Saturday against MSU shows up...well this game will be over before the first period horn sounds.
The good news is Minnesota should have it’s full roster back after missing several players the last two weekend due to COVID. Whether that makes a difference or not only time will tell, but if this team wants to make a statement going down the stretch this would be the time to do it.
Friday’s game faces off at 6PM, and Saturday’s at 4PM. Both games will stream live on BTN+.