Rivalry renewed, Badgers look to continue revival

The border battles continue when the Gophers and Badgers take to the ice Friday and Saturday

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What: Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-6-0 overall, 1-5-0 WCHA) at Wisconsin Badgers (5-3-0, 2-2-0)

When: Friday, Nov. 14 and Saturday, Nov. 15, 7:05 p.m. CST

Site: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.

Broadcasts: Fox Sports Net live TV coverage; WIBA-AM (1310) live radio broadcast, Wisconsin Public Television tape delayed (Friday)

Series notes: Wisconsin trails the all-time series 73-137-13; 45-56-9 at Madison, 0-4-0 last year


Another chapter in one of the nation's most storied rivalries will be written on the Kohl Center ice this weekend as Wisconsin plays host to arch-rival Minnesota. With Minnesota coming off of back-to-back national championships and Wisconsin coming off one of its worst seasons in recent memory, one might be surprised at which team is coming in riding a four-game winning streak and which team has lost its last three games.


Last weekend the Badgers had possibly their best offensive series in two years. Their 14 goals on the weekend matched the total number that they had put up in their first six games combined. 11 different Badgers scored goals in the team's second straight sweep. Granted, the two teams they swept, Quinnipiac and Michigan Tech have a combined overall record of 7-8-2 but you have to start somewhere.


"It's not like we weren't getting chances (in previous games) they just weren't going in the net," senior tri-captain defenseman Dan Boeser said. "And last weekend when the flood gates opened, they really opened."


The Gophers come to Madison banged up and feeling the effects of a three-game losing streak and their worst start in 10 years. After being swept early in the season at home by Minnesota Duluth, they split with Denver before being swept again last weekend at now No. 1 North Dakota.


"They haven't had the start that they expected, but they still have some of the top talent in the country," Boeser said. "It's a big series for both teams."


Some of that Minnesota talent includes Preseason WCHA Player of the Year sophomore forward Thomas Vanek. Although he is off to a slow start with only seven points this season, the fact that he was the fifth pick of this year's NHL entry draft proves that he is more than capable offensively.


"They are in a little bit of a slump and we hope that we just continue to get better this weekend and they don't come out of it," head coach Mike Eaves said.


Part of that slump can be attributed to defensive woes. The Gophers lost their chief goaltender in Travis Weber, who left the University of Minnesota for personal reasons. Coach Don Lucia has had trouble finding success in splitting time between replacements junior Justin Johnson and freshman Kellen Briggs. 


Minnesota has also been plagued by the injuries of key blue liners Chris Harrington and Keith Ballard, another preseason candidate for WCHA Player of the Year. Harrington should be back this weekend, but look for the red hot Badgers to exploit a defensive crew which has been sub-par so far this year.


"If we get a lot of shots on net and put in our rebounds and just score goals when we get the chance I think we'll be successful this weekend," sophomore forward Nick Licari said.


"It will be a real clash at the beginning, both teams coming head-to-head in the first period Friday trying to grab that momentum and confidence for the weekend," Eaves said.


It is always a clash between these two teams. One of the oldest rivalries in college sports, this one dates back to 1922. Minnesota has had more success in the 223 total games between the two squads, and has had more recent success, winning eight out of their last 10 meetings including an 8-1 embarrassment of the Badgers in Minneapolis late last year.


"(The rivalry) is something that everyone takes very seriously. We want to go out and get some wins and gain some respect," said Licari, a Duluth native.


The Badgers look like they are on track now, but everyone remembers last year. They will neither gain respect nationally nor convince local fans that they are for real until they beat a higher class opponent. This weekend, home against Minnesota, is a prime chance to do just that.

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