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Wisconsin women’s hockey: Delaney Drake, Natalie Buchbinder speak ahead of Minnesota series

The Badgers are set for a top-two showdown with the rival Gophers this weekend in Minneapolis

Natalie Buchbinder in action against Minnesota earlier this season.
Mel Giammarco; UW Athletics Communications

Tonight the Wisconsin women’s hockey team will take on rival Minnesota in a highly-touted contest between the sport’s two top teams. Earlier this week the Badgers discussed what the matchup means to the team, and what they’re expecting from their opponents across the border.

Senior forward Delaney Drake opened by speaking about the last matchup between the two teams and how it might impact tonight’s game:

“It just seemed like everyone started clicking. We just came together as a team. Everyone was just playing their role and doing everything we needed to do in order to win. Everyone was just playing super unselfish hockey. And I think that’s what won us those two games. So I think they’re gonna be a little hungry after we swept them at home, obviously. It’s never going to be easy whenever we go out there and play. So everyone’s pretty excited, but we think they’ll be pretty pissed off.”

In terms of preparation for the series, Drake mentioned the team hasn’t altered much of their usual routine:

“It’s kind of the same focus with every team we play. Obviously, the Gophers are a great team- they’re number two, and we’re number one, so we know it’s gonna be a really close matchup, but we just like to approach every weekend the same. We know they’re gonna go hard, and we just have to battle harder. It’s exciting. Every time we play Minnesota, we know there’s gonna be a lot of people watching online. It’s just exciting to showcase the kind of talent that girls hockey has and what our program’s about.”

The Traverse City, Mich. native said they’re expecting a quick tempo from the Gophers once the puck drops in Minneapolis:

“Well, we watched them against Ohio State. It seems like they change their lines up a little bit, using different combinations. I think they have some really skilled forwards. So they’re definitely going to try and come up with some speed and skill. And so we have to really focus on our D-zone, and honing in on those little things and doing those little things right. And then I think our skill will take over the rest.”

Defender Natalie Buchbinder also spoke, discussing her return from a long injury absence and what it was like recovering and coming back:

“[Deciding when to come back] definitely wasn’t easy. But after a conversation with the coaches and our athletic trainer, I decided that I was ready to go and, you know, maybe I played more than I anticipated at first, but after a few good weeks of practice, I thought that I was ready. The hardest part was just getting my wind back. Obviously, practice is one thing, but jumping into a game was definitely hard on my lungs. So I think that was the hardest part, physically.”

Buchbinder, now fully re-integrated into the defensive lineup, also anticipates a hard-fought matchup with the Gophers this weekend:

“It’s gonna be a good series- we’re obviously excited. You’d think that they’re gonna be a little pissed off after what happened last month here in Madison. But I think if we just stick to our game plan and play with speed we’ll be successful. They’re really talented, and so are we. It’s going to be up to who has the most willpower so it’s going to be interesting.”

You can catch the Badgers facing off with the Gophers in a Border Battle for the top ranking in collegiate women’s hockey at 6 p.m. CT Friday on BTN+.