UW’s playoffs begin now

first_imgGREGORY DIXON/Herald photoTechnically the playoffs started last weekend, but it will be this weekend’s games that truly test the No. 1 University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team and offer it a chance to claim the WCHA championship for the second consecutive season.After easily defeating North Dakota in the WCHA tournament’s opening series, Wisconsin will face Ohio State Saturday with the winner going on to play in the tournament final against the winner of the intrastate battle between Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth.Ohio State will present a formidable offensive challenge to Wisconsin’s red-hot defense. Leading charge for the Buckeyes will be forward Erin Keys, who is second in the conference in points with 48.Keys will face a Badger defense that hasn’t allowed a goal in four games, spanning over 247 minutes. In fact, the last team to score against Wisconsin’s stingy defense was Ohio State.Unlike UW’s last two opponents, however, OSU has a potent offense, averaging 3.11 goals per game. A strong opposition on offense bodes well for Badger netminder Jessie Vetter.”It’s a lot easier to see more shots,” Vetter said of the transition between playing a weak offensive team and a strong one. “You’re just in the game throughout, and you don’t have to worry about keeping yourself warm.”Badgers head coach Mark Johnson has not yet announced who will start in goal Saturday and is not expected to do so until Friday night. The battle is between sophomore Jessie Vetter and senior Christine Dufour. Neither Vetter nor Dufour have seen too many shots this season, largely due to the play of the defense — a Badger strength all season long that will be integral in this weekend’s matchup.”It’s important as always,” junior defender Emily Morris said of the team’s defense. “We have a really strong defense and it will be key to our success as it’s been all year and as it will be hopefully in the future.”Ohio State is also strong defensively and is led by three all-conference performers — Lisa Bowman, Amber Chesson and Tessa Bonhomme. While the Buckeyes allow 2.31 goals per game, they have had trouble stopping the Badgers’ offense all season.Even though the Badgers have won all four meetings with the Buckeyes this season, three of them have come in hotly contested 3-2 games. This time should be no different, as Ohio State’s season will be on the line Saturday.While UW is a virtual lock to make the NCAA tournament regardless of this weekend, OSU, currently ranked 10th in the country, will need at least one win, probably two, if it wants to be one of the NCAA tournament’s eight teams.Playing against a team that is desperate for a win is never an easy feat, but the Badgers, as always, will be ready for the challenge.”We have to take it one game at a time,” junior Jinelle Zaugg said. “Ohio State is always a good match; they’ve always been a team that battles us. Coach always says the hardest team to play is a team you’re trying to eliminate. If we win, we end their season, and that’s never an easy thing to do. They’re going to want to win badly.”Wisconsin’s semifinal game will be the first played Saturday, meaning the Badgers will have the opportunity to scout the second game should they advance. Seventh-ranked Minnesota-Duluth is the only team to have beaten Wisconsin this season and No. 9 Minnesota is the host team, so both squads present their own challenges. The Badgers, however, say they have no preference about who they meet in the tournament finals.”I think either way they’re very good teams,” Vetter said. “We’ll have to compete and perform and hopefully we can make it to the [championship game.]”last_img

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