The Matchup: No. 10/RV Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Minnesota
When: Saturday Dec. 1 & Sunday Dec. 2 – 2pm CT
Where: Ridder Arena; Minneapolis, MN
Ice Sheet: 200'x85'
All-Time Series: 31-26-8 Minnesota leads
Last Meeting: 4-2 Minnesota in National Championship game
This series is easily the best in women's hockey, no ifs, ands, or doubts about it. Of course it helps that these two schools and programs simply don't like each other. So, no matter the records, who's undefeated or who's leading the WCHA expecting the unexpected when the Badgers and Gophers tangle is the norm. It'll be the 66th and 67th meetings between these two schools and with the Border Battle cup it's 40 points on the line with the Gophers leading 135-85, so wins by the Badgers would go a long way towards helping them climb right back in it.
Don't think for one second the likes of Brianna Decker and Co. have forgotten about last season's loss in the National Championship game either and revenge will be on their minds. There's no better way to get it than to end the Gophers undefeated streak, which now stands at an NCAA record 24 games.
….. more after the jump …..
About the Gophers:
Record: 16-0-0 (6-0-0-0 WCHA, 30 points, 1st place)
Head Coach: Brad Frost (161-36-16, 6th season)
Notable: As we mentioned before this team is on a tear, holding the NCAA record for most consecutive wins with 24 in a row. However impressive that streak is it's their offensive prowess that's even more impressive as the Gophers have scored 98 goals, which is 31 more than the next best offense in the country, hard to top that kind of power. It's also hard to stop a team that has given up only 10 goals in 16 games so far this season.
Points: Amanda Kessel – 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists)
Goals: Amanda Kessel – 20 goals
Assists: Amanda Kessel & Hanna Brandt – 25 assists
Save Pct.: Amanda Leveille – 1.000
GAA: Amanda Leveille – 0.00GAA
*note that Noora Ratty is usual starter in net & owns a .961 save % and a 0.77GAA as she's started all 14 games available for her to start. However, Leveille has started 2 games and played in 5 to give her enough minutes to qualify for the lead in those categories.
About the Badgers:
Record: 10-4-2 (6-4-2-2 WCHA, 22pts, 4th)
Head Coach: Mark Johnson (290-50-27, 10th season)
Notable: Wisconsin returns 14 players that skated in the Frozen Four Final against the Gophers last season and have the reigning WCHA offensive player of the week in Brianna Decker, who's been on fire as of late.
Points: Brianna Decker – 27 points (16 goals, 11 assists)
Goals: Brianna Decker – 16 goals
Assists: Brianna Decker – 11 assists
Save Pct.: Alex Rigsby – .938 save pct.
GAA: Alex Rigsby – 1.44GAA
Obviously the Gophers are on a tear on both ends of the ice, scoring nearly 10 times as many goals as they are giving up, however of the 10 goals they have allowed on the season 40% of them have come on the power play. So, if the Badgers want to win a game or this series they will need to take advantage of their power play opportunities.
Interestingly for Minnesota this game will probably be their biggest test so far this season on the offensive end of the ice as the Badgers rank 2nd in the WCHA in scoring defense (1.44 goals against) and penalty kill defense (89.8%)
So, it could come down to who breaks the other teams special teams defense the most that wins this series. The Gophers have allowed teams to score goals in just 7 games this season and on the offensive side of things haven't scored fewer than 3 goals all year long to date.
Prediction: Tie & Loss for Wisconsin (5-3 loss on Saturday, 4-4 tie on Sunday). Yes, Wisconsin becomes the first team all year to earn a point off the Gophers.