Women’s hockey faces Badgers in big game

Brett Angel

This time around, Laura Halldorson and Mark Johnson aren’t expecting any surprises.

The respective head coaches of Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s women’s hockey teams meet for the fifth time this season (and third time in eight days) at 4:05 p.m. today at North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena in the semifinals of the WCHA tournament.

The winner of Friday’s game will play Saturday night in the WCHA championship game against either Minnesota-Duluth or Ohio State.

“It becomes a chess match,” Johnson said. “There aren’t going to be a lot of surprises because both teams end up knowing each other so well.”

Minnesota came out on top in three of the previous games, including a 2-0 shutout in the most recent game last Saturday in Middleton, Wis., but all four were decided by two goals or less.

Beyond the Final Five, a loss tonight could leave either team out of the national tournament picture.

Wisconsin (21-7-5, 14-6-4 WCHA) is currently ranked sixth in the Pairwise Rankings (only the top four are invited to the NCAA Frozen Four) and probably must win the conference tournament to have any chance of cracking the top four.

Minnesota (26-5-1, 19-4-1 WCHA) has been ranked in the top three nationally all season and can all but lock up a bid to the Frozen Four with a win. But dropping two of its final three games to the Badgers (the Gophers lost 2-1 last Friday) would give the selection committee something to think about before sending an invitation to Minneapolis.

“At this point you’re playing such great teams that it really doesn’t come down to X’s and O’s,” Halldorson said. “It’s going to be the character and the heart that make or break a game that’s tight.”

Wendell a game-time

decision

Earlier this week Minnesota’s second-leading scorer Krissy Wendell, who fractured her collarbone on Feb. 8 against Ohio State, skated in full pads for the first time in nearly a month.

Wendell has yet to participate in team practices, but will make the trip to Grand Forks and could play this weekend.

Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said a doctor will accompany the team and will reevaluate Wendell’s status prior to Friday’s game.

“We probably won’t be able to make a decision until game day,” Halldorson said.

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]