While Ohio State is getting their first experience at the Frozen Four this year, Wisconsin is back playing for the national championship on the final weekend of the season for the seventh time in eight years. But the Badgers have also failed to take home a national championship since that stretch began in 2011.
Last year was supposed to be the year. The Badgers came into the national title game as the consensus number one team in the country and were heavy favorites to take the title, until they were knocked off 3-0 to Clarkson in the national title game. “I think last year’s game was really humbling for us. I think we need to learn to come into every game ready to play 100% and play all 60 minutes because that is what it takes,” said junior forward Sophia Shaver on Thursday.
If all goes according to plan, the Badgers could get their shot at redemption, with Clarkson on the other half of the bracket and favored to return to the national title game. This year’s Wisconsin team is much younger, and perhaps not as strong as last year’s thanks to missing a few players in an Olympic year. But they come into the tournament as the number one team in the Pairwise with as good a shot as anybody.
If Wisconsin is going to win the title, the key factor will be their speed. They are probably the fastest team in the tournament, which should create match-up problems for opponents, and they’re a skilled enough group that they will be able to take advantage when that speed opens up opportunities for them. The Badgers are also a strong defensive team, but a large measure of North Dakota transfer Kristen Campbell’s success in goal this year is owed to the ability of the team in front of her to limit shot opportunities. She averaged less than 20 shots on goal per game over the course of the season.
Players to watch for the Badgers:
Abby Roque, Sophomore, Forward- A highly-touted recruit, Roque started on the Badgers’ third line last year before making the move to the first line this past season to become Wisconsin’s leading scorer. She’s a tough, strong player that competes hard and has the skill to finish off plays.
Presley Norby, Sophomore, Forward-Norby isn’t the biggest, strongest player, but is exceptionally fast, and plays a fearless style of hockey where she is willing to go hard into tough areas to make plays.
Mikaela Gardner, Junior, Defenseman-Wisconsin’s top defenseman both in terms of scoring and +/-(which in the case of a team like Wisconsin, means she’s out on the ice the most). She’s very good at moving the puck and really helps drive possession for the Badgers.