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Wisconsin Badgers Hockey Preview: Much More Than a Border Battle This Time

The Matchup: No. 19 Wisconsin at No. 4 Minnesota
Dates: Friday/Saturday, Feb 24/25; /7pm CT
Location: Minneapolis, Minn.; Mariucci Arena (10,000)
Ice Surface: 200’ X 100′
TV: Friday — Fox Sports Wisconsin Plus; Saturday — FS Wisconsin
Stream: BTN2Go
Radio: Friday/Saturday — WIBA-AM 1310
Audio Stream: Badgersportsnetwork.com (Free)
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads, 165-92-23
Last Meeting: Wisconsin win; 5-3 (Jan. 21, 2017)

Raise your hand if you thought the Border Battle would be anything more than a prideful measuring stick before this season began. Ok, I don’t see any hands up, and rightfully so. Yet, here we are a few weeks away from the end of the regular season and we find ourselves with the biggest series of the year meaning far more than just pride.

Wisconsin will travel to Minnesota this weekend trailing the Gophers by three points at the top of the Big Ten standings. A sweep by either team will tilt the title race in their favor in a major way.

This weekend could also go a long way towards cementing Wisconsin’s ability to make the postseason without an automatic conference bid. So, buckle up the chin straps, because this weekend is going to be one of the craziest in this storied rivalry.

 

About No. 4 Minnesota

Record: 20-8-2 (11-3-0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Don Lucia — 435-227-70 (18th Year at MINN); 714-382-99 (30th Year overall)
Notable: Minnesota will return to the friendly confines of Mariucci Arena after a four-game road trip to Ohio State and Penn State. It was a successful one, as Minnesota took three of the four games, including a huge weekend sweep of fellow B1G title contender Penn State. It’s been a good season at home for the Gophers, who are 9-2-1 at Mariucci this season.

Stats Leaders:

Points: Tyler Sheehy (46 points — 18 goals, 28 assists)
Goals: Sheehy (18)
Assists: Sheehy (28)
Save Pct.: Eric Schierhorn (.900)
Goals Against Average: Schierhorn (2.76)

About No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 17-10-1 (10-4-0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Tony Granato (17-10-1; 1st season and overall)
Notable: Big Ten play has been very kind to the Badgers this season, as UW has swept four of its six conference series’ on the year. Part of that success is Wisconsin’s ability to play well on the road, as they own a 7-2-0 record away from the Kohl Center this season.

Stats Leaders

Points: Luke Kunin (33 — 19 goals, 14 assists)
Goals: Kunin (19)
Assists: Cameron Hughes (22)
Save Pct.: Jack Berry (.895)
Goals Against Average: Jack Berry – 2.63

Prediction

Well, something is going to have to give in this series if either team wants to truly control its own destiny in the Big Ten title race. Minnesota has been red-hot at home, while the Badgers’ 7-2-0 record on the road means things could get real interesting at Mariucci.

Granato’s players better be ready from the word go, because these Gophers like to score in bunches. Minnesota has scored four or more goals in each of their last seven games, including five or more in four of the last six. That’s not good news for a Wisconsin defense thanks ranks 46th in the country in team defense, giving up 3.29 goals per game.

The good news is that UW’s offense can keep it in just about any game, sitting sixth in the nation and averaging 3.75 goals per game. Once again, something is going to have to give.

So, that is why I don’t actually see much of anything giving between these two rivals. They split the series at the Kohl Center and will do the same at Mariucci to leave us exactly where we started the weekend off.

Friday: Wisconsin 4-3
Saturday: Minnesota 5-2

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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