Badgers bring biggest test

Looking to build on new energy from this past weekend, the Fighting Hawks look to set the bar even higher as they face the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend.

As it stands, UND is the only  women’s hockey team this season to have defeated the Badgers and will work even harder this coming weekend for a sweep.

To recall the first meeting these two teams had before the end of the first half of the season, UND shut out Wisconsin 3-0 in game one, with contributions from all team members to assist Shelby Amsley-Benzie for her fifth shutout of the season. Game two was down to the wire, as both teams ended regulation scoreless but the Hawks would ultimately fall 2-0 in a shootout decision.

UND has been one of the only teams this year to be able to frustrate the Badgers. The Hawks have posted the most goals against Wisconsin and Amsley-Benzie is the only goalie this season to shut out the Badgers in regulation time.

After falling to UND the last time the two teams met, the Badgers have not missed a beat. Wisconsin is currently riding a four game win streak and is second in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Women’s College Hockey Poll, missing first place to the still undefeated Boston College.

The high national standing comes off of the Badgers goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. The sophomore  currently has an outstanding goals-against average of 0.69 and her save percentage is .961 this season, both ranking first nationally. The Hawks will have to crack one of the nation’s best goalies in order to improve on last weekend’s success.

With last weekend’s win, North Dakota improves to 13-6-3 (10-5-3-1 WCHA) and moves into third place in the conference standings.

This series will test all aspects of teamwork.

“In order to keep up with Wisconsin, everyone needs to all contribute, all four lines,” UND forward Rebekah Kolstad said. “In the sweep against Duluth, we played four lines and it worked. To be a championship team, we need to trust that all four lines can produce against any opponents.”

The squad produced hard-fought goals against Wisconsin in their first meeting and it is what brought home the win.

“We don’t need to play pretty,” UND forward Charly Dahlquist said. “The goals against the Badgers were dirty, we need to get past wanting to be pretty and work together for what will produce the win.”

Emphasizing confidence, the Hawks needs to come out strong and stay strong throughout all three periods.

“We know that we can beat them because we’ve done it before and the big key is confidence,” Kolstad said, “Wisconsin will most likely come into the game wanting to destroy us, and they know we fight hard.”

Playing in another team’s building is always a challenge but the Fighting Hawks intend to use it as motivation.

“Upsetting another team in their own rink is a great feeling,” Dahlquist said.  “It is even more motivation to work together as a team to take home the win we know we deserve.”

North Dakota will face Wisconsin this Saturday and Sunday in Madison, Wis. Puck drop for both games will be at 2:07 p.m.

Allyson Bento is a sports writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]