Game 2 of USCHO’s January tour of the WCHA features Round 2 of Minnesota-Duluth vs. Wisconsin. The Bulldogs bested the Badgers at the DECC in early November by the narrowest of margins, 4-3 and 2-1. Wisconsin gets its turn as the hostile host this weekend, looking to match or better the three-point effort it mustered against UMD at the Kohl Center last January.
No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth (15-1-2 overall, 13-1-2 WCHA)
Top Scorers: Caroline Ouellette, Sr., F (16-29-45), Noemie Marin, So., F (19-17-36), Jessica Koizumi, So., F (16-10-26)
Top Goaltender: Riitta Schaublin, So. (13-1-1, 1.52, .944)
Scoring Offense: 4.33 (4th)
Scoring Defense: 1.61 (5th)
Penalty Minutes: 16.7 (5th)
Power Play: 32 of 122, 26.2% (3rd)
Penalty Kill: 110 of 123, 89.4% (6th)
Minnesota-Duluth returned from its holiday break with a bang, blitzing Ohio State for eight goals last Friday before outlasting the Buckeyes the next night on the strength of a dominant performance from Caroline Ouellette (two goals, a primary assist, and 12 of UMD’s 38 shots).
This weekend, Coach Shannon Miller is hoping for a little more offensive support for Ouellette, Noemie Marin and Jessica Koizumi. Last weekend, the second line went silent while Duluth’s top three guns pumped in 10 of the team’s 11 goals. Miller openly admits that UMD likely needs that second line to produce to be successful against the likes of Wisconsin and No. 1 Minnesota, while only the youthful third unit is under orders to primarily dump, chase and forecheck. The second line was held scoreless in the first series with the Badgers, but defenders Julianne Vasichek and Rachel Drazan provided support scoring with two goals and three assists.
Miller’s lineup could get a boost if a mix of returning players and newcomers start to pay dividends. Krista McArthur made her season debut against Ohio State and logged a regular shift. Newcomer Karen Demeule will join the forward corps this weekend for her first collegiate action. Senior Nora Tallus, who centered the team’s top line until her injury in December, and backup goaltender Anna-Kaisa Piiroinen (ankle surgery) have both been cleared to practice but are listed as questionable for this series. Forward Melissa Roy goaltender and goaltender Patricia Elsmore (Sautter) continue to await the green light from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
No. 4 Wisconsin (15-4-1 overall, 9-4-1 WCHA)
Top Scorers: Sara Bauer, So., F (15-18-33), Lindsay Macy, So., F (14-14-28), Molly Engstrom, Sr., D (9-14-23)
Top Goaltenders: Meghan Horras, Jr. (8-2-1, 1.63, .921), Christine Dufour, So. (7-2-0, 0.78, .955)
Scoring Offense: 4.80 (3rd)
Scoring Defense: 1.30 (1st)
Penalty Minutes: 15.3 (10th)
Power Play: 29 of 115, 25.2% (4th)
Penalty Kill: 116 of 130, 89.2% (7th)
Wisconsin warmed up after its holiday layoff with an easy sweep of Quinnipiac, but it’s hard to say the Badgers are firing on all cylinders as they return home this weekend. In particular, the top line of Sara Bauer, Lindsay Macy and Sharon Cole is suffering through a bit of a drought. The trio produced 30 goals and 68 points in the team’s first 13 games, but just four goals and 12 points in its last seven games. In addition, they produced only one goal between them in the first go-around with Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota.
However, Wisconsin has been built on defense and defense has been the difference for the Badgers head-to-head with the two Minnesota powers. The Badgers are a very solid 10-7-2 all-time against the Bulldogs and Gophers when allowing two goals or less, but just 1-27-4 all-time against the Bulldogs and Gophers when allowing three goals or more. Coach Mark Johnson expects the Olympic-sized ice of the Kohl Center to yield more open games this weekend than the first series with UMD. However, the third-year Wisconsin coach is hoping that the additional space actually helps the defensive cause by reducing the penalty count. The Badgers amassed 23 infractions to Duluth’s 17 in the first series, and both game-winning goals came on power plays, including a 5-on-3 tally by Ouellette to break a 3-3 tie with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.