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Women’s hockey: Badgers welcome more tough competition to Lebahn

first_imgComing off big wins last weekend, the University of Wisconsin Women’s Hockey team (24-1-1, 18-1-1 WHCA) is going into their matchup against No. 15 St. Cloud State (12-10-2, 8-10-2 WCHA) this weekend looking to maintain a high standard of play.The last time the two programs faced each other, Wisconsin walked away with two shutout wins.Focusing on the bigger pictureThe Badgers not only won twice against North Dakota this weekend, but also secured home ice for the first rounds of the WCHA playoffs. But the Badgers need to keep their winning streak up for the next few weeks if they want to clinch a top playoff seed.Minnesota isn’t far behind Wisconsin in the WCHA standings though. The Badgers are now facing the pressure of the Gophers bearing down on them for the top seed. Only one loss could see Wisconsin fall to the number two seed.Wisconsin keys to victory:Defense is a mustWith playoff season looming around the corner, the Badgers’ defense must be sharp to keep points off the board. This means that UW goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens will need to keep playing with the same accuracy that she has been playing with all season. But in order to do that, her defenders are going to need to support her and help prevent another team from scoring.Thankfully, Wisconsin has the top defense in the WCHA, a unit that allows only .6 points per game — the lowest season average in UW history.With defensemen such as Mellissa Channell, Jenny Ryan, Courtney Burke and Kim Drake all having over 25 blocks on the season, they just need to keep up their performances and they should find success.The main three: Nurse, Pankowski and ClarkWisconsin’s offense is going to be key in the next few matchups, but especially important against St. Cloud State. The Badgers’ leading scorers, forwards Sarah Nurse, Annie Pankowski and Emily Clark need to be given plenty of shooting opportunities.During Wisconsin’s last matchup, Nurse managed two of UW’s seven points in the series while Pankowski tallied one. Considering that each member of the trio has over 15 goals this season, allowing the three to capitalize on scoring opportunities will put Wisconsin in place to succeed.Containing Molly IllikainenIllikainen leads the Huskies with 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists). Her dangerous .233 shooting percentage has made her a staple scorer for St. Cloud State this season. She will be a challenge to the UW defense and Desbiens. Keeping her at bay will be paramount for a Wisconsin victory.last_img read more