Wisconsin isn’t jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire this weekend — just into another frying pan.
The Badgers’ two biggest rivals, Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota, just happen to be the teams they face during the last weekend in October and first weekend in November.
They also happen to be ranked one and two in the country.
Coming off a home series against the Bulldogs, in which they lost 7-2 and tied 3-3, the Badgers realized they were one period, a five-goal third period on Friday, from at least splitting the weekend series.
— Wisconsin goalie Jackie MacMillan, on the Badgers’ series with Minnesota
Last weekend was a blow to Wisconsin because it lost three of four points but also marked the difference in the two rivalries. The Badgers and Bulldogs don’t like each other, as was witnessed by an incident that saw Wisconsin senior captain Sis Paulsen and UMD senior forward Joanne Eustace both given game disqualification penalties for fighting Saturday.
“UMD came in and blew us out in our inaugural game,” said Badger goalie Jackie MacMillan. “As seniors, we remember that and, when we play them, we play for some revenge.
“The rivalry with Minnesota is more mental. If you grow up in Minnesota or Wisconsin, you know that the ‘Border Battle’ is a big deal.”
In other words, the Badgers and Gophers don’t have any personal grudges but don’t expect the teams to hold hands and sing songs either.
Wisconsin effectively ended Minnesota’s season two years ago at the WCHA Final Five. With the Gophers sitting on the bubble of the gaining a berth in the first NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, which they were hosting, the Badgers handed them a 4-3 loss.
Last season, the Minnesota carried a 24-game unbeaten streak into a home series with Wisconsin and the Badgers promptly defeated the Gophers 2-0, handing them just their second shutout loss at home in school history.
Minnesota has handed the Badgers some tough losses as well, including a 3-2 loss in the WCHA Championship last season, which ended Wisconsin’s season and sent Minnesota to the Frozen Four as the number one seed.
The Badgers also have eight Minnesotans on their roster for whom this rivalry is always special. Four of those eight are making their last appearance in Minneapolis.
“It’s something I try not to think about,” MacMillan said. “But it’s hard not to think that this is my last time playing in the Twin Cities. I want to play hard and have no regrets.
“At the same time, this is an important weekend for use because we need to get some points.”
MacMillan knows her team played well for five of six periods against UMD and will be ready for the Gophers this weekend.
“I think we have some very positive things to build off,” she said of the series with the Bulldogs. “But we also made mistakes and everyone realizes we have some things we can improve. It’s important that we come into this weekend knowing what we need to work on, make the necessary corrections and stay intense.”
However, the Badgers suffered two key losses on their blue line. Paulsen will have to sit out the first game of the series due to her disqualification penalty. Sophomore Carla MacLeod, who was scheduled to play for Team Canada at next week’s Four Nations Cup, is out for the series. She suffered a fractured fibula in Friday’s loss to UMD and will be in a cast for six weeks before beginning rehabilitation. Her return to the lineup isn’t expected until after Christmas break.
Still, the Badgers have more quality on the blueline than most. Senior Kerry Weiland is a player teams love to hate but her 110 career points and three All-WCHA selections attest to the fact that she is more than a pest. Sophomore Nicole Uliasz was a U.S. National Team member last year and will represent her country at the Four Nations Cup next week.
The difference in this weekend’s series for the Badgers, moreso than in the past, is that the team has higher expectations and splitting, at the very least, with their top two rivals is expected.
For both teams, this may be an important weekend. For one, however, it may be a little more important.
WCHA “House”Hold Hints
Several league teams will look to give role players more playing time this weekend as they prepare for next weekend’s action … A total of 15 players are scheduled to miss playing time next weekend as they represent their countries at the Four Nations Cup … UMD loses six players for its series at Ohio State while the Buckeyes will be without junior defenseman Emma Laaksonen … Minnesota loses forwards Natalie Darwitz, Kelly Stephens and Krissy Wendell and defenseman Winny Brodt … Wisconsin will be without the services of three defensemen … Carla MacLeod, who was scheduled to play with Team Canada, is gone until at least Christmas with a broken leg … Fellow blueliners Nicole Uliasz and Kerry Weiland will also miss the Badgers’ three-game road trip, which features two exhibition games and a meeting at No. 7 St. Lawrence … St. Cloud State loses freshman forward Josefin Pettersson to Team Sweden.
Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson could become the seventh coach in women’s college hockey history to win 200 games with a sweep of the Badgers … She currently stands at 198-105-24 in 13 seasons … Coming off three loses over the weekend, an injury-depleted St. Cloud State squad is off this weekend … Despite having some of the WCHA’s top offensive players on display, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin combined to go 0-for-16 on the power play in their weekend series … Bulldog senior forward Maria Rooth played her 100th career game over the weekend and is UMD’s all-time leader with 101 career goals and 184 career points … Minnesota State is playing its first non-conference games of the season this weekend when it hosts Mercyhurst … St. Cloud State seniors Abby Cooper and Amanda Mathison both reached the 100 career games played plateau last weekend … Bemidji State junior forward Guylaine Haché recorded her first career hat trick in the Beavers’ 6-2 win at Minnesota State Friday.
Offensive Player of the Week–Erika Holst, Sr., F, UMD
Defensive Player of the Week–Jody Horak, So., G, Minnesota
Rookie of the Week–Krissy Wendell, Fr., F, Minnesota
No. 6 Wisconsin at No. 2 Minnesota
Minnesota leads the all-time series 12-2-1, including a 5-1 record in Minneapolis … Gopher sophomore goalie Jody Horak has posted back-to-back shutouts in her last two starts … She has not allowed a goal since the second period of a 7-2 win at Findlay, Oct. 13, a span of 193 minutes, 43 seconds … Wisconsin’s Jackie MacMillan is the only goalie in the league to have played all for her team’s minutes in goal … Gopher freshman Krissy Wendell has been named the league’s rookie of the week each of the last two weeks … She scored both game-winning goals last weekend at Ohio State … Minnesota is beginning a six-game homestand … Eight of the Gophers’ next 10 games will be at Ridder Arena … 15 of Minnesota’s 18 skaters have scored a point this season … Wisconsin junior forward Meghan Hunter has scored a point in all six Badger games this season … She has a 16-game point-scoring streak during which time she has 11 goals and 15 assists.
Ohio State at Bemidji State (Friday-Saturday)
The Buckeyes are 7-5-2 all-time against BSU … The Beavers hired former Maine and St. Lawrence defenseman Lauren Steblen as an assistant coach this week … In her first games behind the Bemidji State bench she will be facing her sister, Lindsey, a senior defensemen for Ohio State … After starting the season 7-for-12 on the power play, the Buckeyes have converted just one of their last 16 opportunities … Beaver senior center Amber Fryklund enters the weekend with a six-game assist-scoring streak … She is seven points shy of 100 for her career and is the only BSU player to average over a point per game for her career … Junior goalie Anik Coté has started all four of the Beavers’ conference games this season.
North Dakota at No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth (Friday-Saturday)
The two teams are meeting for the first time … UMD is perfect on the penalty kill this season, killing all 40 of its opponents power-play chances … The Bulldogs have killed 49 consecutive power plays with the last power goal against them coming in a 6-2 win over Ohio State, March 9, 2002, in the WCHA Third-Place game … UMD senior forward Erika Holst has multiple-points in all six games this season, racking up a national-best 19 points … She’s been named the WCHA’s player of the week two weeks in a row … 17 of the Bulldogs’ 19 skaters have registered a point this season … UND is fifth nationally in penalty killing at 91.7 percent … The Sioux have allowed just one power-play goal in three games … Junior forward Stasia Bakhit has scored in all three regular-season and both exhibition games for UND … She ranks ninth nationally with 1.67 points per game.
No. 10 Mercyhurst at Minnesota State (Saturday-Sunday)
Mercyhurst is 5-0-0 against MSU … The Lakers have allowed just four goals in those give contests … Mercyhurst won both games at Mankato last year by 3-1 counts … Four of the Mavericks eight goals this season have been scored by newcomers … MSU sophomore forward Kristina Koga notched her first career goal in Friday’s 6-2 loss to Bemidji State … Saturday’s win was the Mavericks’ first conference home victory in nearly three years, with their last win coming against the Beavers as well, Nov. 28, 1999 … Mercyhurst is 4-0-0 against WCHA opponents this season … The Lakers have yet to play a CHA games this season, the last team to do so … Mercyhurst’s 6-2-0 start is its best in four seasons.