The #1 ranked Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team closes out their tough November WCHA stretch this weekend with a series against their arch rival and #3 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams will be rested as the Gophers were off last weekend and the Badgers have not played since October 29th in Duluth. First place in the WCHA is on the line as Minnesota enters the weekend four points back of Ohio State for the top spot in the conference.
Wisconsin has both lost a ton of talent and reloaded from a season ago. Gone is Patty Kazmaier Award winner Daryl Watts and goalie Kennedy Blair. But the Badgers brought in several players who missed last year attempting to make Olympic rosters in Britta Curl and star freshman KK Harvey. Add in Boston University transfer Jessie Compher and Wisconsin is a dangerous team yet again.
Sophomore Lacy Eden who came in halfway through the season a year ago leads Wisconsin in scoring with 19 points and 10 goals. Harvey also has 19 points as a defender and leads the Badgers in assists. Two familiar names who still remain are third and fourth in scoring so far this year for Wisconsin in Sophie Shirley and Casey O’Brien. This Badger team can put the puck in the net leading the nation with 5.67 goals per game. Part of that is the benefit of their schedule as this will be the first time this season the Badgers will face Minnesota and they also have yet to play Ohio State this season. Against Minnesota-Duluth, the best team Wisconsin has faced so far this season, the Badgers scored one goal and four goals in their two games. It should be Minnesota’s goal to limit them to a similar total.
The Badgers don’t have a true #1 goalie for the first time in many seasons. Redshirt senior Cami Kronish and redshirt sophomore Jane Gervais have split time in the nets thus far, each starting six of the Badgers 12 games. Kronish has the slightly better stats this far entering the weekend with a .85 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Gervais has a 1.33 GAA and a ,935 save percentage. Both really great numbers and a reason why Wisconsin is 4th in the nation in total defense allowing 1.14 goals per game on the season.
Minnesots is no slouch offensively and defensively either. Their 4.82 goals per game ranks #2 in the nation behind the Badgers. Minnesota has benefited from the return of Grace Zumwinkle from the US Olympic Team as she leads the Gopohers with 17 points. Fellow Olympian Abbey Murphy has also returned with a flourish leading the Gophers with 9 goals. And don’t look now but reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner Taylor Heise is heating up and now is second on the roster with 16 points. Before the Gophers off weekend Heise won back to back WCHA forward of the week honors after tallying 7 (3g-4a) points, including an overtime winner, in a 3-0-1 stretch vs. No. 1 Ohio State and No. 5 UMD.
Sophomore Skyler Vetter has taking the #1 goalie spot for Minnesota and run with it. She enters the weekend with a 2.04 GAA and a .917 save percentage having faced a much tougher schedule than the badgers goalkeepers. Minnesota ranks 12th in the nation allowing 2.09 goals per game.
The Gophers have the better special teams numbers heading into the weekens. Minnesota is scoring 25% of the time on the power play good enough for 6th in the nation while Wisconsin is scoring 16.28% of the time, good for 25th in the country. Wisconsin is better on the penalty kill with an 83.87% success rate to the Gophers 75.76%. Both teams can score a player short as well as Minnesota has three shorthanded goals on the season and the Badgers, two.
On paper, this weekend will be another classic Minnesota/ Wisconsin matchup. Both games will face off at 2 PM on Saturday and Sunday with Saturday’s game available to watch on local TV on Fox9+. Both Saturday and Sundays games will stream on BTN+.