Oct. 10, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- After its sweep of WCHA-foe Minnesota State, the No. 4/5 Wisconsin women’s hockey team faces its first road test of the year, traveling to the Twin Cities to take on No. 1 Minnesota in a Border Battle showdown at Ridder Arena. The Badgers and Golden Gophers face off on Friday in a 6 p.m. game before concluding the series on Saturday with a 4 p.m. contest.
The clash features two 2-0-0 squads, as Minnesota earned a road sweep at Colgate last weekend. The meeting marks the earliest the two squads have faced each in program history, which is something that UW head coach Mark Johnson doesn’t mind.
“It will be a challenge, but I like it early in the season,” Johnson said. “I like the opportunity to see how my young players and how we as a team respond to this type of environment that we'll be going into.”
The environment at Ridder Arena will be electric, not only because the Gophers enter the weekend with an NCAA-record 51 game winning streak, but Minnesota will unveil its 2012-13 national championship banner before Friday’s game. Johnson believes that his six freshmen will react just fine to the atmosphere.
“I'm not seeing the nervousness that you might normally see with young freshmen,” Johnson said. “Three of our freshmen are Canadian kids. I'm not sure they know about the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry. I'm sure the other players will let them in on it. What I've seen to this point, I'm excited because they've stepped in, they've eaten up some minutes, they've conducted themselves in a real positive way, and they've made a contribution.”
The freshmen did make an impact during the Badgers’ triumphs over the Mavericks last weekend, as Sydney McKibbon and Sarah Nurse each recorded their first collegiate goals. Freshman defenseman Mellissa Channell also finished the weekend +2.
The upperclassman also shined, goaltender Alex Rigsby saved 53 of the 54 shots she faced to earn WCHA Defensive Player of the Week. Her save percentage of .981 is the best in the nation among goaltenders with at least two starts. The senior captain recorded two wins to bring her career total up to 85, which is only six behind Jessie Vetter’s school record. She also picked up her 24th career shutout, the second-most in program history.
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Redshirt junior Brittany Ammerman, who missed almost all of last season, scored three goals and added an assist to lead the Badgers with four points. Her 1.50 goals per game ranks fifth in the nation, while her 2.00 points per contest is tied for eighth in the nation.
“She (Ammerman) has that offensive capability, which if you take a year off, not sure where it's going to be when they come back,” Johnson said. “She's worked hard since the early spring last year to put herself in a position, number one, to be healthy, and secondly, make a contribution to her team.”
Junior Blayre Turnbull tallied three points with a goal and two assists. Senior Madison Packer also added a goal and an assist as 10 Badgers tallied points on the weekend.
The Gophers, who have won the past six meetings between the two teams, enter this weekend with the reigning WCHA Offensive Player of the Week in Rachael Bona. Bona had seven points last weekend, and is tied for the national lead in goals per game (2.00) and game-winning goals (2). Hannah Brandt is tied for second in the nation with 2.50 assists per game.