View From Wisconsin

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Minnesota closes out the regular season this weekend with a Border Battler against rival Wisconsin. The two teams split their series earlier this season in Madison. We once again chatted with Chuck Schwartz, who is the hockey editor of Bucky's 5th Quarter, about the upcoming weekend. Schwartz tells us everything you need to know about the Badgers. You can also follow Schwartz on Twitter here.

GopherSports: Chuck, how have the Badgers played since Minnesota and Wisconsin met earlier this year in Madison?

Chuck Schwartz: It's truly been a roller-coaster ride for the Badgers since these two clubs last met. The Badgers have gone 10-9-1 since the border battle in November, but there have been many swings. The Badgers are currently on a three game winning streak which has come on the heels of a five game losing streak.

Wisconsin won seven of 12 at home since the teams last met, but have won just three of eight outside of Madison. The road record has truly been the story of the season for the Badgers. Their 3-8-1 record on the road this season is likely to keep them out of the NCAA tournament, but they did sweep Bemidji State in their barn last weekend, becoming just the first team to do so this season.

GS: Everyone knows about Mark Zengerle and Justin Schultz, but who is a player who has emerged for Wisconsin since they last played the Gophers?

CS: I think you first have to look at a pair of young defensemen when you're talking about emerging players since November. Sophomore Frankie Simonelli has surely benefited from playing with All-American Justin Schultz over the past few months, but the Bensenville, Ill. native has chipped in 13 points since the last meeting, and is second on the club in plus/minus.

Additionally, freshman Jake McCabe who missed the first series due to a hand laceration has really come along nicely. The cousin of former Gopher wide receiver Eric Decker has chipped in nine points of his own, all coming since the Gophers left Madison. He's also been solid on both ends of the ice, and has seen his ice time increase every weekend.

GS: These two teams split their first series of the year in Madison. What does Wisconsin have to do this time around to have success at Mariucci Arena?

CS: I think first and foremost Wisconsin needs to stay out of the penalty box. It sounds like a simple thing, but the numbers really tell the story. Wisconsin has one of the worst penalty kills in the nation (55th overall, 75%), and the Gophers own one of the best power play units (7th overall, 23.2%).

As one would suspect, the Badgers have had much more success in games where their penalty kill has been good. In Wisconsin's 15 wins its penalty is over 80%, but in its 15 losses it's at 66.66%. They are oddly 100% killing penalties in games that result in a tie.

The point remains that in order for the Badgers to have success against the league-leading Gophers this weekend they are going to have to shut down their electric power play, and that starts with limiting their opportunities.

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