Women’s hockey: No. 4 Wisconsin to end regular season against St. Cloud State

first_imgWith their playoff spot secure, the WCHA tournament beginning next week and the NCAA’s the week after, this weekend’s series for the Badgers women’s hockey team against St. Cloud State serves as one last test in preparation for Wisconsin’s final push.St. Cloud State seems a lowly opponent for the Badgers, having accrued only 14 points to date in conference play during the season.However, this series isn’t a waste of Wisconsin’s efforts; in fact, it is an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of their opponent.The Badgers will be seeing much of the Huskies in these next two weeks since they will be hosting them in the first round of the WCHA tournament. This weekend’s games will provide head coach Mark Johnson and his players an opportunity to feel out their opponent before next weekend’s games, where losses end their season.“They’re going to come out to play,” Melissa Channell said. “It’s the last two games of the regular season. They’re going to try and win for their seniors, and we’re going to try to win for ours. As of now, we’ve already clinched home and will be playing St. Cloud in the playoffs. …We have to be ready, come prepared, and make sure we’re doing what we’ve been doing all season.”Wisconsin is coming off a split series at Ohio State. They dropped the second game in a 4-3 loss, their comeback effort falling just short.“I think we really showed some heart,” Annie Pankowski said. “We need to bring that effort to every single game we have, not just the last six or seven minutes of the game.”The loss, while not demoralizing, has kept the team hungry as they tread a fine line between staying fresh before the tournament games while not losing their competitive edge. That edge has led them to second place in the WCHA and a No. 3 national ranking, which Johnson emphasized that the team keeps regardless of the opponent.“The big thing now is to manage our energy, for the players to manage themselves mentally,” Johnson said. “We’ve been going since September. You want to make sure that the practices are fun and enjoyable, that the kids are laughing, having a good time, but at the same time getting their work done.”While St. Cloud State does not strike a menacing tone, the principle Johnson instills into his players still applies. The team must carry over the intensity from the final minutes against Ohio State into this weekend, Johnson said.“We need to package what we did in that last eight or nine minutes and start with that this Friday afternoon,” Johnson said. “These games this weekend and certainly in the playoffs get magnified. So our ability to go out and stay focused and play with that urgency is important, and that’s what I am trying to get across to my team.”Quick FactsWisconsin Keys to the Game:Ann-Renee Desbiens – 1.19 GAA, 25 Wins, 12 ShutoutsAnnie Pankowski – 16 G, 19 A, 35 Pts.Melissa Channell – +24, 2 G, 14 A Watch for the speed mismatches between Wisconsin forwards and St. Cloud’s defenders. Desbiens is one shy of tying Jessie-Vetter’s 2008-2009 record of shutouts in a season.St. Cloud State Keys to the Game:Julie Friend – 3.55 GAA, 5 Wins, .898 Save %Molly Illikainen – 9 G, 9 A, 18 Pts.Audrey Hanmer – 5 G, 9 A, 14 pts. Jinelle Siergiej makes her return to Wisconsin, the former player this time behind the bench as an assistant coach for the Huskies. The Huskies home arena features a much larger rink, so look for them to deviate from their regular game plan on Lebahn’s smaller ice surface.last_img

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