|| No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 10 Wisconsin
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. The Golden Gophers are 16-0-0 on the year and are on a 24-game winning streak, which is an NCAA record. Their last loss was on Feb. 17, 2012 in a 2-1 overtime loss to North Dakota. Minnesota is currently on a 12-game home winning streak, which began on Feb. 17 following the loss to UND. During the 24-game span, the Gophers have record 5.63 goals per game while their opponents have scored 0.70. Minnesota has also shutout their opponents in 12 contests during the streak.
2. Minnesota is 31-26-8 all-time in the Border Battle against Wisconsin. Last season, the Gophers went 3-1-1 against the Badgers, including a 4-2 win in the 2012 National Championship game. Minnesota and Wisconsin have combined to win five of the last seven NCAA titles, including the last two. In the previous 20 matchups between the two foes, 18 of the games have been decided by two or fewer goals. This year is the latest first meeting between these two since the 2004 season (Dec. 4 and 5). The Maroon & Gold have only met Wisconsin three times during the month of December, but they have fared well going 2-0-1.
3. The Gophers have been a juggernaut this season as they have excelled at both the offensive and defensive side. They have notched 98 goals through these first 16 games (6.12/game), which is 31 more than the next team in the NCAA. Junior Amanda Kessel and freshman Hannah Brandt are catalysts in this gaudy number since they are one-two in the nation in scoring with 45 and 43 points. Minnesota is posting a ridiculous scoring percentage on their power play of 38.2% (29-of-76), which if continued will rival the NCAA record of 31.0% (70-of-226) set by the Gophers during the 2004-05 season. Senior Megan Bozek heads the special teams with having 17 power-play points. Defensively, the Maroon & Gold have allowed just 10 goals (0.62/game) which is second to only Harvard, who has only played seven games this season. Minnesota has a penalty kill percentage of 94.0% (63-of-67) and has recorded eight short-handed goals this season. Senior goaltender Noora Räty is a huge factor in these efforts as she has a save percentage of 0.77 and has recorded six shutouts.
4. Räty is on the brink of inking herself in the NCAA record book for a two things: career wins and career shutouts in NCAA history. The Finnish goaltender currently has 90 wins in her career and is only 10 back from the NCAA record of 100, which was set by Mercyhurst's Hillary Pattenden last season. Räty also sits at 32 career shutouts, which is seven off the NCAA record. Former Badger Jessie Vetter holds the shutout record with 39. Another record is also on the horizon in career save percentage. Räty sits at .945 right now, which is just above former Minnesota Duluth goaltender Kim Martin (.943).
5. Kessel currently leads the NCAA in scoring (45 points) and has a shot a breaking the nation's scoring record of 114 points, which was set by former Gopher Natalie Darwitz. The junior forward sat out one game this year due to an injury, but if the Madison, Wis. continues her scoring average of three points per game, she would reach 120 points (assuming the Gophers reach the 2013 NCAA Championship game). If this trend continues, Kessel will break Minnesota's career scoring record, which was also set by Darawitz (246), and crack into the Top 5 for all-time scorers in the NCAA.
The No. 10-ranked Badgers enter this weekend with a 10-3-2 record. After starting the 2012 season with a 3-3-2 record, Wisconsin has rebounded to go 7-1-0 in their last eight games. Their lone loss came at the hands of Ohio State. UW returned to the Top 10 this week at 10th after being on the outside the past five weeks.
Senior forward Briana Decker is the catalyst in Wisconsin's success. The 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award winner leads the team with 27 points (16-11-27). This past weekend she just eclipsed the 100-goal mark and is only the 15th player in NCAA history to do so.
Defensively, junior goaltender Alex Rigsby plays a huge role at keeping Wisconsin, who has struggled to score, in games. Rigsby, who was the 2011-12 WCHA Goaltending Champion, has a goal against average of 1.44 and a save percentage of .938. She has also tallied four shutouts so far this season.
Both Decker and Rigsby have played with the US Women's National Team. Most recently, they participated in the 2012 Four Nations Cup with Bozek, Kessel and Gopher freshman Milica McMillen.