first_imgGREGORY DIXON/Herald PhotoComing off two series where the opponent has never won, the No. 2 Wisconsin women’s hockey team (24-1-3, 18-1-3 WCHA) will face a much stiffer test this weekend when it travels to the shore of Lake Superior to face No. 7 Minnesota-Duluth.The last time these two teams met was Nov. 24, when the Bulldogs (16-7-3, 15-5-2 WCHA) stole the Badgers’ hearts with a 2-0 win to snap Wisconsin’s team record 26-game unbeaten streak. Wisconsin bounced back in the second game, clawing its way to a hard fought, well earned 1-0 victory.”When our two clubs get together it’s usually a pretty good game, so we have to be prepared.” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said.Last time, freshman goaltender Kim Martin shut out the Badgers in game one, making 25 saves. But coming off of a series in which it scored 13 goals, UW is more concerned with playing sound defense.”We need to play hard on the defensive end,” senior forward Phoebe Monteleone said. “If we can do that, playing on the offensive end is our reward.”Led by Martin and senior goalie Ritta Schaublin, the Bulldogs allow an impressive 1.70 goals per game while scoring 3.30 of their own. However, those numbers pale in comparison to those of the Badgers who currently rank first in the nation in scoring defense at 1.00 goals per game and second in offense with 4.43 goals per game.But numbers aren’t everything. Wisconsin knows that it will take a superior effort to extend its current 13-game unbeaten steak.”It’s not the best team on the ice that wins,” Monteleone said. “It’s the team that works the hardest.”Currently, Minnesota-Duluth is ranked second in the WCHA standings, trailing Wisconsin by seven points. A bad series, however, and UMD is right back in the mix. “We have a solid lead, and we want to keep that lead,” sophomore Erika Lawler said. “At the end of the year you never know what’s going to happen, so it’s important to keep winning.”If the Badgers can take three or more points during this series, they can clinch the regular season title and the number one seed in the conference tournament.”It’s nice; it’ll be good to have that seed going into the WCHA playoffs,” Monteleone said. “We have put a lot of hard work towards it.”With the playoffs just three weeks away, the Bulldogs will offer a good test that should give the Badgers a sense of where they stand heading into the post-season.”It comes at a good time because we’ll get tested and with the playoffs around the corner,” Johnson said. “It’ll give us a sense of where we are and what we need to work on.”Assuming Wisconsin clinches the No. 1 seed before season’s end, it would face North Dakota — a team that hasn’t won in conference play — in the first round. Despite the favorable potential first round match up, Johnson is still focused on taking things one game at a time — not on winning the regular season title.”It won’t be on my mind,” Johnson said. “I’m concentrating on going out and playing 60 minutes of solid hockey on Friday night. As a staff we just need to keep the team thinking about each game and not getting ahead of ourselves.”As an added bonus, a strong performance in Duluth would mean a lot for UW when it comes time for the NCAA seedings to be released. The Badgers are currently ranked second in the Pairwise Rankings. Playing the seventh-ranked Bulldogs will provide an opportunity for them to improve their .6094 RPI and give them a chance to jump Mercyhurst for the top spot in the country.When it comes to national ratings though, Johnson again chooses to let things play out as they may.”Obviously you’re playing for things right now,” Johnson said. “We’ve got ourselves in a good position, but we need to go out and play and let those things other things take care of themselves.”last_img

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