Streaking Badgers head to North Dakota

first_imgLast Sunday afternoon, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team listened intently to an online stream of the game between two of their top rivals — Minnesota and North Dakota — and may have been caught off guard by the results. After a 62-game winning streak, the Golden Gophers finally met their match as they fell to UND 3-2. And now, at the peak of UND’s game, the Badgers have the difficult task of upending the up-ender.UND (9-2-1, 7-2-1 WCHA) was having an extremely successful year even before its season-highlight win against Minnesota, finishing most games on the higher end of a lopsided score. They rolled over Lindenwood in both games of the series, resulting in 5-1 and 6-1 wins, trumped Ohio State one night in a 5-2 victory and later did the same to St. Cloud State in a 6-1 triumph. The momentum continued as North Dakota easily defeated Bemidji State University in a weekend series (6-2, 5-2) before facing the seemingly unbeatable Gophers.It makes sense now that, of all the games this season, head coach Mark Johnson thinks UND will be the toughest opponent after the Sunday win in Minneapolis.“[UND] beat Minnesota in Minneapolis on Sunday, so for the game Friday night, I’m sure they’re going to be quite energized and excited and feeling good about themselves,” Johnson said.  “We need to do what we’ve done most of the season. For the most part our group’s been very consistent in their effort, so it should be a good weekend of hockey.”Johnson sounds confident in his team and with good reason. UW has started a winning streak of its own, seeing a “W” next to the final score of the last eight games, including two games against tough east coast teams from this past weekend.  Boston University, which faced off against Wisconsin faced Saturday night, had just one loss prior to the weekend, but the Badgers shut them out in 5-0 fashion.Redshirt junior Brittany Ammerman said this past weekend tested her team in terms of many different aspects of the game, including speed, adversity and requiring everyone to step up. These will most likely be called upon again for the North Dakota series.“[UND] is a fast team, they’re one of the top three in our league and so it’s going to be a good game,” she said.  “Obviously they were good enough to beat Minnesota and so I think it’s going to be very competitive and we’ll be able to keep up with them and hopefully come out on top.”UND’s main strength this season has been its aggressive offense, relying heavily on controlling the puck around the opposing net and the scoring opportunities created by two of its star forwards, senior Michelle Karvinen and freshman Susanna Tapani.Karvinen and Tapani have been named to the Finnish national team this year (along with defensemen Johanna Fallman making Sweden’s roster and Tanja Eisenschmid making Germany’s team) and have been proving they are Olympic material by consistently contributing to UND’s high-scoring victories.But if any team is prepared to defeat North Dakota right now, it’s Wisconsin. The Badgers take pride in their strong defense, which has been quite impressive this season. No opponent has scored more than two goals on UW in any game, or had much luck scoring on Wisconsin’s penalty kill.Johnson said this defense, combined with the balance in scoring among his players, is what has given the team success so far this season, and it could be Wisconsin’s leg up when playing North Dakota.“If we’re going to be successful and win some games, we’re going to need a lot of people chipping in, and that’s probably one of the reasons we’ve been successful up to this point,” Johnson said. “Our special teams work pretty good, our goaltending has been consistent and we’ve got some balanced scoring. If you can do that and maintain that for an entire season, then you’re going to have a good year.”As for what the Badgers will be focusing on to do differently this game, Johnson said they want to play as much five-on-five hockey as possible and not put themselves in in difficult situations if they can help it.“We’ll emphasize a couple things, the big ones being staying out of the penalty box both nights, don’t give them any free power plays if we can,” Johnson said. “And then when we get power plays, we’ll try to capitalize on them. They’ll be tight games, I would imagine.”last_img

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