This weekend didn’t go as planned. The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers (18-3-3, 13-3-2-0-2 WCHA) women’s hockey team traveled to Minneapolis looking for revenge against the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-6-1, 14-5-1 WCHA), who had handed UW their first, and until this weekend only, loss of the season.
As mentioned...things didn’t go as planned.
The Gophers swept the Badgers, 2-1 on Friday night and 4-3 on Saturday afternoon, to move ahead of Wisconsin in the WCHA standings. Minnesota now has the most points in the conference, but sits in second place behind Ohio State due to the Buckeyes having a better points percentage (which is how the league will decided the regular season champion due to certain teams playing fewer games due to COVID). No matter how you slice it, the Badgers sit in third place in the WCHA looking up at two conference rivals.
Wisconsin hadn’t played a competitive game since Jan. 2, due to the St. Thomas series being cancelled and a scheduled bye week, and rust may have played a part in Wisconsin’s effort this weekend.
“It was a good game, I thought both teams played well. I was happy with our performance, I thought we competed well. The only thing that we could’ve done better was the power plays we had in the first period where we didn’t look very good and they weren’t very good. Overall I thought the effort was good,” head coach Mark Johnson said after the loss on Friday.
Down 1-0 heading into the third period, UW was finally able to get on the board thanks to a Daryl Watts power play goal that came after a five minute major penalty was called on the Gophers. There was some controversy around the call, as it wasn’t decided on as a penalty until video review and, to be perfectly honest, didn’t appear to be worthy of a major call. It was Watts’ 275th career point, making her the sixth player to ever reach that mark.
The Gophers Amy Potomak, who just KILLS the Badgers, scored with two and a half minutes left to win the game.
The game on Saturday was a far different affair with both teams scoring early and often. Wisconsin opened up the scoring four minutes into the game with a Brette Pettet goal but, as would become a pattern, the Gophers tied it up under 90 seconds later. Caitlin Schneider made it 2-1 Wisconsin with three minutes left in the first, but 14 seconds later the Gophers tied it up. Minnesota added a third goal 70 seconds later and entered the first intermission up 3-2.
Minnesota made it 4-2 early in the second and even another goal from Pettet in the third period couldn’t get the Badgers to equalize and the Gophers went home with a 4-3 win and a series sweep.
“This is a big weekend for our team. It’s been a few years for our team since we’ve had a lot of success against them. They’re a really good team, but we played really well. I’m really proud of our team – they earned it tonight,” Gophers head coach Brad Frost said after Saturday’s game.
The Gophers complete the regular season unbeaten against the Badgers for the first time since 2014-15 after going 3-0-1 and this series sweep was the first time UM swept UW since 2016 AND the first time Wisconsin has been swept at all since 2018.
Wisconsin has a lot to figure out to try and win the conference and defend their national championship as it is clear that the Gophers have their number this season.