No. 2 Minnesota prepares for a border brawl vs No. 1 Wisconsin

Minnesota looks to avenge last season’s national championship loss to the Badgers.

Olivia Knowles gets ready to take the puck on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 at Ridder Arena. The Gophers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 2-1.

Elle Moulin

Olivia Knowles gets ready to take the puck on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 at Ridder Arena. The Gophers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 2-1.

Matthew Kennedy

On Saturday, the Gophers will take the ice against their top rivals, the Wisconsin Badgers. Not only does the matchup feature border rivals, it pits the top two teams in the country against each other and is a rematch of the NCAA national championship game, which the Badgers won 2-0. 

“It’s super exciting. I think right on Sunday there was a text sent in our player group message saying, ‘Border Battle this week guys let’s get ready!’” senior forward Alex Woken said. “So, it’s always an exciting weekend and it’s a series we look forward to every year.”

The Badgers also defeated the Gophers 3-1 in the 2019 WCHA championship, which still stings for the returning Gophers players. 

“It sucks to lose and when we bring that chip on our shoulders into this weekend [it] will be huge. Like coach said yesterday in practice, we are preparing the same way that we always have this whole year, and will always remember to most importantly have fun and not get frustrated and stay positive,” Woken said. 

No. 1Wisconsin enters the weekend with an undefeated 10-0 record. One of the main reasons for their success has been the return of one of the top goalies in the nation, redshirt senior Kristen Campbell. Campbell was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 NCAA Women’s Hockey Championship and has a .944 save percentage this season. 

“She is very good and I’m really confident in our goaltending as well,” head coach Brad Frost said. “One thing Wisconsin does well is that their skaters make it hard for others to get to their net, just like it’s hard to get to ours. So we’re gonna have to take her eyes away a little bit and get to those dirty areas and try to bang a few things home.” 

The Badgers also return prolific scoring forwards senior Abby Roque and sophomore Sophie Shirley, who have powered Wisconsin to outscore opponents 60-9. Newcomer Daryl Watts, who transferred from Boston College, has scored nine goals in ten games with the Badgers.

While Minnesota dropped a game to Ohio State in their latest series, they remain a strong championship contender behind the best scoring defensive squad in the nation including juniors Emily Brown (four goals) and Olivia Knowles (three goals). 

The Gophers also feature one of the best goalies in the nation, senior Sydney Scobee, who has earned two shutout wins this year while allowing 1.5 goals per game. 

Another asset for the Gophers has been Grace Zumwinkle, who is off to a red-hot start. Coming off of a four-goal series against Ohio State, she was named WCHA Forward of the Week. 

This won’t be the last time this season that the Gophers and the Badgers meet, with another series coming on Jan, 24-25 in Madison, and possibly for a seventh meeting in the national championship. 

These two schools have been undoubtedly the top teams in women’s hockey to watch in recent memory, with Minnesota and Wisconsin combining for 11 national titles since 2001, when the first women’s national title commenced. 

The series begins Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2:07 p.m. at Ridder Arena.