No. 1 Badgers head to face rival Gophers

first_imgBreann Frykas and UW’s women’s hockey team hope to continue their early season dominance against UM, especially on offense.[/media-credit]For the first time this season, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team will leave the comforts of home for the University of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena to take on the Golden Gophers.The Badgers look to build upon a perfect start to the season (8-0, 6-0) this weekend, an effort that has earned them the No. 1 ranking in the country.However, the task may prove arduous, as Minnesota (5-4, 2-4) lost two tough games against instate rival Minnesota-Duluth last weekend.“They’re probably going to be a little bit feisty. Any time you lose a couple of games, you come back to practice a little more determined and a little more focused on what you want to do. Not many people like to lose,” head coach Mark Johnson said.Aside from the hunger to upend the top-ranked Badgers, what makes Minnesota a formidable matchup is the experience and balance the Gophers bring to the ice.Minnesota returns four out of the top five scorers from last year while also adding a highly-touted freshman in Amanda Kessel.“I think a lot of them are fast, especially with Kessel in there now. They are quick and they have a good sense of where the net is, so we’re going to have to play strong defensively,” Brianna Decker said.Kessel, a Madison native, leads her team in points and shots on goal. However, the player the Badgers might worry about most doesn’t normally score.In net for the Golden Gophers is sophomore and Finnish Olympian Noora Raty, a goaltender who can stand on her head in big games and completely shut down any offense.“She’s capable of making a lot of saves and making it really difficult to score. So, our job is to try and take her eyes away, get some deflections, look for rebounds. She’s very good on the first shot,” Johnson said.In addition to scouting for a stubborn goalie, this week the Badgers are focusing their attention on defense.Wisconsin has dominated the majority of its games early in the season, outshooting and outscoring opponents by wide margins, but they have not dealt with the type of pressure Minnesota is capable of applying.“We’ve been doing a lot of defensive zone coverage just to work on our defense because we haven’t had to spend a lot of time down there,” freshman Brittany Ammerman said.The other concern for the Badgers this weekend is the Ridder Arena, Minnesota’s home ice.The intimate arena fosters a hostile environment for all visiting teams, and with the No. 1 ranking Wisconsin carries, this weekend will likely be no exception.But it’s not just the crowd the Badgers need to worry about.Compared to the Kohl Center, which contains one of the biggest ice sheets in the conference, Ridder Arena plays small.To prepare this week, Johnson has conducted practice a little differently.“We’ll do a couple of things in the next couple of days to try and get people to react to situations quicker because people are going to be on top of you. I’m sure they’re going to try and forecheck us aggressively, so we’ll show some video on those things and do some exercises in practice,” Johnson said.Whatever challenges arise, Wisconsin believes it is ready. Though the team has enjoyed its time at the Kohl Center stringing off win after win, the Badgers can’t help but feel excitement as their first road trip looms before them.“It’s really exciting. It’s the talk of the locker room, we’re working hard this week, we can’t wait to leave on Thursday and we can’t wait to play our rivals,” Ammerman said.But after Wisconsin beat Minnesota three out of four games last season, after the Gophers lost two tough games last weekend and with the knowledge that the Badgers are ranked No. 1 in the country, Minnesota probably can’t wait either.last_img

admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *