With playoffs looming, momentum provides the greatest spoils for any team's final series of the season.
With the WCHA regular season title out of reach, momentum is exactly what the No. 4-ranked Gophers are looking for.
Minnesota has been on a tear lately with victories in its last six games for full sweeps of three opponents.
Despite battling injuries and goalie changes, the Gophers have come out stronger than ever, and are looking to get the full six points against next-door rivals Wisconsin, the top-ranked team in the nation this season.
“Those points will be huge,” said senior defenseman Lee Stecklein. “We definitely want to secure that second spot [over Minnesota Duluth].”
Minnesota will be especially anxious to play against its heated rival this weekend, as the last time they faced off, the Badgers shellacked the Gophers for an 8-2 Sunday victory.
The Gophers are still 1-1 on the season against the Badgers, and won the first game of the series 2-0 in shutout fashion.
The biggest problem for Minnesota may be trying to get past Wisconsin’s Ann-Renee Desbiens, who is widely regarded as one of the top goaltenders in the nation.
Desbiens leads the NCAA in save percentage with an elite .957, and also leads in shutouts with 12 so far.
“She’s big, athletic, she looks like she’s out of position, and she’ll stick one of those long legs out or her arm and make a good glove save,” said head coach Brad Frost. “She plays the puck well, probably as well as anyone in the country, and she’s a confident kid as well.”
While Wisconsin already locked up the WCHA Championship with a shutout victory over Minnesota Duluth Sunday, Minnesota is still in a heated dogfight for the second rank, battling with the Bulldogs.
This series will be the perfect setup for Minnesota going into the WCHA Tournament, and the impending NCAA Tournament, giving them much needed confidence heading into the playoffs.
Wisconsin is also on a 14-game victory streak that Minnesota would surely like to spoil.
“I think we’ve been playing really well over the last month, so the goal is to keep that going,” Frost said. “Going into the playoffs we want to be playing some really good hockey.”