2015 Frozen Four Preview: Wisconsin Badgers

The Badgers return to the Frozen Four for the second year in a row, and will be making their eighth appearance all-time in the Frozen Four. After posting a 29-6-4 record this season, Wisconsin is hunting down its fifth national title and first since 2011.

NCAA Quarterfinals: Wisconsin 5, Boston University 1

Wisconsin scored early and often to put away the Terriers last Saturday and advance to this weekend’s semifinal. Annie Pankowski scored on a breakaway just 2:56 in, and Katarina Zgraja scored before the end of the period for a 2-0 Badgers lead. Pankowski and Emily Clark added second-period goals, before Jenny Ryan scored a power-play marker over halfway through the third to make it 5-0. The Terriers got one back late, but the Badgers held on with relative ease after opening up such a big lead.

The Badgers: An Overview

Strengths/Weaknesses: Goaltending is a strong suit for the WCHA in general, so Ann-Renée Desbiens gets buried a bit in the conversation behind Wisconsin’s defense, but she has been outstanding all year and can get to a level that not many can match. The Badgers have the greatest lead in shot differential in the country, with a margin of 22.41 shots per game, and have the nation’s best scoring defense, allowing an average of 1.08 goals per game. Their penalty kill is simply unmatched at 96.6%, but the power play is lackluster in comparison at 16.9%. Wisconsin doesn’t rely on any one player to score, which is a sign of strength throughout their line-up but can have its downsides as well.

Players to Watch

  • G Ann-Renée Desbiens, .943 save percentage (4th nationally), 1.10 goals-against average (2nd nationally), 14 shutouts (2nd nationally), 26-6-4
  • F Annie Pankowski, 20 goals, 22 assists, 42 points; holds the team lead in scoring and is tied for 14th nationally as well; leads the team in shots with 177; 2-goal game vs. Boston University in NCAA Quarterfinal
  • F Sarah Nurse, 15 goals, 10 assists, 25 points; leads the team in game-winning goals with 5; named WCHA Final Face-Off Most Outstanding Player after scoring 4 goals and 6 points in 2 games; tied for team lead in power-play goals with 4
  • F Blayre Turnbull, 15 goals, 21 assists, 36 points; 55.2% in the faceoff circle and leads team with 345 faceoff wins; tied for team lead in power-play goals with 4
  • D Courtney Burke, 4 goals, 20 assists, 24 points; leads team in defensemen scoring; leads team in power-play points with 12; 48 blocked shots

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

6 p.m. EST/5 p.m. CST, Ridder Arena, Minneapolis, Minn.

Season Series: The Gophers are 3-0-1 against the Badgers this season. They swept Wisconsin in Madison early in the year, winning 4-1 and then 2-1 in overtime. When the series returned to Minnesota, the Badgers fell 4-1 once again in the opening game, but tied the Gophers 1-1 the following day.

Friday’s Match-Up: Though Wisconsin is clearly one of the country’s most dominant teams at both ends, the Badgers haven’t been able to establish that same control against the Gophers. That is partly owed to Minnesota’s defensive efforts; and though Wisconsin hasn’t been poor defensively itself, it needs to take that next step and assert itself offensively if it hopes to truly prevent the Gophers from getting consistent chances. As long as they’re in the driver’s seat, it’s very hard to get anything going against the Badgers. In fact, the game in which they had the most success against the Gophers (the 1-1 tie) was the only game against Minnesota this season in which they put up more than 30 shots on net.

Other Frozen Four Notes:

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