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Wisconsin Badgers battle Gophers in 1st Border Battle series of 2016-17 season

The Matchup: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Dates: Friday/Saturday, January 20/21; 7pm/5pm CT
Location: Madison, Wis.; Kohl Center (15,359)
Ice Surface: 200’ X 97’/200′ X 100′
TV: Friday/Saturday — FS Wisconsin Alternate
Stream: BTN2Go
Radio: Friday/Saturday — WIBA-AM 1310
Audio Stream: Badgersportsnetwork.com (Free)
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads, 164-91-23 (.368)
Last Meeting: Minnesota win; 4-1 (March 12, 2016)

It took long enough, but the series Badgers and Gophers fans look forward to the most all season is finally upon us. This series is a big one for both teams, beyond the usual intensity of a Border Battle series.

All that is at stake is Wisconsin’s potential as an NCAA tournament team and the top spot in the Big Ten. Bot teams have just one loss in conference play this season, with Wisconsin holding a 3-1-0 record in conference play and Minnesota owning a 5-1-0 record as well.

Buckle up for a crazy series between these two bitter Border Battle rivals.

About No. 7 Minnesota Gophers

Record: 13-5-2 overall, 5-1-0-0 Big Ten
Head Coach: Don Lucia — 415-219-68 at Minnesota (18 years); 694-374-97 (30th Year)
Notable: The Gopher are one of the most balanced teams in the country, with a powerful offense and some of the most stifling defense in the country. It has born out in its record this season. The Gophers are 12-2-2 on the season when outshooting their opponents, while also going 4-0-0 on the year when allowing 20 or fewer shots on goal. Three of those four games have come in Big Ten play.

Stats Leaders:

Points: Tyler Sheehy (28 points — 14 goals, 14 assists)
Goals: Tyler Sheehy (14)
Assists: Justin Kloos (15)
Save Pct.: Eric Schierhorn (.895)
Goals Against Average: Eric Schierhorn (2.64)

About Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 10-7-1 overall; 3-1-0-0 Big Ten
Head Coach: Tony Granato (10-7-1; 1st season and overall)
Notable: Wisconsin’s offense has been high-powered in Granato’s first season, putting in 65 goals in 18 games for a 3.61 goals per game average. It is the best goals per game average by a Badgers hockey team since the 2009-10 season. That season ended with Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament and getting to the national championship game before being dropped by Boston College.

Stats Leaders

Points: Grant Besse (22 — 8 goals, 14 assists)
Goals: Luke Kunin (13)
Assists: Grant Besse (14)
Save Pct.: Jack Berry (.894)
Goals Against Average: Jack Berry – 2.46

Prediction

The good news for Wisconsin is that is a vastly improved team as the season has gone on. The bad news is that it hasn’t been really tested in a long time. In fact, Wisconsin hasn’t faced a ranked opponent since a date with No. 2 Denver back in late November.

So, this will be an extreme test for Wisconsin. What should scare Badgers fans is this team’s defensive record of giving up quick goals and bad goals too. Can Wisconsin overcome that pattern and be stout against an offense that is as equally as lethal as the Badgers?

Ultimately that is going to hold Wisconsin back in this series, and I fully expect them to falter this weekend against a very good Gophers squad. If UW gets any results out of this weekend it will come via a tie and a shootout loss.

Friday: Wisconsin 3, Minnesota 3 (Minnesota wins shootout)

Saturday: Minnesota 4, Wisconsin 1

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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