Nov. 21, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Following two strong performances at a tournament in Vail, Colo., last weekend, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team will continue its string of away contests with a pair of tilts against conference-rival North Dakota this weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday nights.
Both teams have consistently been ranked in the top 10 of this season’s USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls, with the Badgers (10-2-0, 6-2-0) currently claiming the No. 2 spot and UND (9-2-1, 7-2-1) checking in at No. 4 in this week’s voting.
The rankings follow big wins for both WCHA teams in contests last weekend. In Wisconsin’s contest against Northeastern on Friday, Freshman Jenny Ryan scored her first collegiate goal with less than three minutes remaining in the game to propel the Badgers to a 3-2 victory. The team then defeated then-No. 8 Boston University 5-0 on Saturday, with five different players lighting the lamp to extend the Badgers game-winning streak to eight.
North Dakota also had a big weekend, managing to snap No. 1 Minnesota’s 62-game winning streak, an NCAA record, with a 3-2 win at the Golden Gophers’ home rink on Sunday. Freshmen Kayla Gardner, Gracen Hirschy and Susanna Tapani led the offensive push, each scoring a goal for UND within the first 13 minutes of the game. Minnesota retaliated in the second period with two goals of their own, but North Dakota forced a scoreless third stanza to claim the win. The victory followed a 1-6 loss to the Gophers on Saturday.
“Obviously with beating Minnesota in Minneapolis on Sunday, (in) the game on Friday night (UND) will be quite energized and feeling good about themselves,” UW head coach Mark Johnson said. “They will be tight games, I imagine, and it comes down to which individual players will make a play and give their team a little bit of an advantage. It will be set up a good challenge for us.”
Although the Badgers currently hold a 37-4-1 all-time series record against North Dakota, UND claimed a 2-1 victory in the most recent match-up between the teams on March 8 of this year. The loss occurred in the semifinal round of the WCHA Final Face-Off, resulting in the end of Wisconsin’s 2012-13 season.
But Wisconsin entered the 2013-14 season with some new faces that have already made an impact on the team’s success. Freshmen Sarah Nurse and Sydney McKibbon both scored in Saturday’s victory over Boston University, bringing their goal counts to four and three, respectively. Freshman defenseman Mellissa Channell has tallied seven points on two goals and five assists so far this season, and freshman Jenny Ryan recorded her first career and game-winning goal in the Badgers’ win on Friday.
These players follow in the footsteps of some key returners, including redshirt junior Brittany Ammerman and junior Blayre Turnbull. Ammerman is tied for seventh nationally in total points so far this season with 19, stemming from her nine goals and 10 assists. Turnbull is also amongst the nation’s top scoring leaders, ranking 19th along with junior Josefine Jakobsen from North Dakota with 15 total points.
The upcoming games will also be big for senior goaltender Alex Rigsby, who holds a 7-2-0 record so far this season. Rigsby marked her 25th career shutout against Boston University on Saturday, improving her career win count to 90. This leaves Rigsby just one win short of tying the school win record, held by former Wisconsin goaltender Jessie Vetter.
“If we are going to be successful and win some games we are going to need a lot of people chipping in,” Johnson said. “That is one of the reasons why we have been successful to this point, our special teams have been good, our goaltending has been consistent and we have had some balanced scoring. If you can do that and maintain that for an entire season, you’re generally going to have a great year.”
Friday’s 7 p.m. match-up will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin. It will also air on FCS Pacific, and live video of the game will be available at UNDSports.com for a fee.
The Badgers will then conclude the series against UND at 7 p.m. on Saturday.