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Preview: Border Battle rematch in WCHA Final Faceoff

University of Minnesota women’s hockey will take on rival Wisconsin in the semifinals of the WCHA playoffs on Friday night.
Image by Emily Urfer
The last time the Gophers made it to the NCAA championship game was in 2019 when they lost to Wisconsin.

No. 3 Minnesota will host No. 6 Wisconsin at Ridder Arena Friday evening for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) semifinals.

As if the regular season Border Battle games weren’t intense enough, the two WCHA powerhouses face off in a playoff elimination matchup.

Wisconsin holds the edge in the regular season series with a 2-0-2 record. In the first regular season series in November, the two teams tied 3-3 in the first game, but Wisconsin dominated Minnesota 4-1 in the following game. The two teams tied yet again in February in their first game, and the Badgers emerged victorious 7-5 in the second game.

Is keeping the score low the key to victory?

Minnesota’s final matchup against the Badgers, the 7-5 loss in February, was quite uncharacteristic of the Gophers: in 35 games this season, Wisconsin averaged 1.9 goals a game.

In games this season where the Gophers allowed 4 or more goals, they’re 1-5-1. Despite being an offensive juggernaut, the Gophers seem unable to compete in high-scoring games.

A game Minnesota should aim to replicate is their 4-2 victory over No. 1 Ohio State in early February.

The Gophers held the Buckeyes to just 2 goals and 33 shots. For comparison, Ohio State has averaged approximately 42 shots and 4 goals per game this season. Additionally, in that game versus Ohio State, Minnesota held a 2-goal lead entering the third period.

Wisconsin is 1-8-1 this season after either being tied or trailing entering the third period.

Gophers look for revenge

Minnesota finished in second place in the WCHA standings, while Wisconsin landed in third place. However, there was a significant 8-point difference between the two teams in the standings.

As the two seed, the Gophers faced seventh-place St. Thomas in their first-round matchup. After only finding the back of the net six times against St. Thomas the weekend prior, Minnesota regained their scoring abilities, winning both games. The Gophers shut out the Tommies 7-0 in Game 1 and 6-2 in Game 2.

Meanwhile, in Madison, the Badgers squared off against sixth-place Minnesota State. Wisconsin held the Mavericks to just 1 goal over the weekend, winning Game 1 3-0 and taking Game 2 4-1.

The last time these two teams played against each other in the WCHA Final Faceoff was in March 2021, when Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 5-3 at Ridder Arena. Minnesota will look to avenge that playoff loss to Wisconsin in addition to this season’s losses on Friday starting at 5 p.m. at Ridder Arena.

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