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Badgers not downgrading pesky Beavers

first_imgAs excitement radiates from the locker room of the Wisconsin women’s hockey team, the need to focus is critical as the Badgers prepare to take on the Bemidji State Beavers this weekend.Although not ranked in the top 10, the Beavers (8-10-2) remain a competitive team that the Badgers (22-2-2) and head coach Mark Johnson refuse to overlook. Bemidji State has proved to be a problem for top-ranked teams like Wisconsin all season. Last weekend the Beavers tied No. 2 Minnesota on the road in game two of the series and lost 3-2 in a close game one.“[Bemidji State] works hard and plays with confidence and this season they have been pretty consistent by beating a lot of teams in our league and in the country,” Johnson said. “They are competitive, they work hard and they have a very good goaltender, so when those things happen you end up with a pretty good hockey team.”The teams met earlier this season and although Wisconsin swept the series by decisive scores of 6-1 and 3-1, but did not pick up the victories without a challenge.Key to Bemidji State’s success is its senior goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova. Ranked ninth in the nation for save percentage, Tomcikova is solid in the back and allows the Beavers to play aggressively on offense. The Badgers know they will have to put a lot of quality shots on net if they hope to emerge victorious.“Their goalie is outstanding and I think we really need to focus on eliminating their chances,” senior forward and assistant captain Brooke Ammerman said. “Because we aren’t going to beat her very often, we need to pressure them.”Despite the challenges Bemidji State presents, the Badgers have plenty of threats of their own, including sophomore goalie Alex Rigsby. Rigsby, with five shutouts so far this season – tied for third in the NCAA – has been instrumental to keeping the team on top.Adding to the usual pressure of conference play is the large crowd expected to attend game two of the series on Saturday night as Wisconsin hosts its third annual “Fill the Bowl” event. With reduced general admission, free student admission and group discounts, the Badgers are hoping to draw enough supporters to break the NCAA women’s hockey attendance record, which currently stands at 10,668 fans.Last year’s “Fill the Bowl,” which set that record, was a huge success for the program. UW was also able to beat Minnesota 3-1 in that game, which included a Badger goal just 47 seconds into the game.“We are really excited because of last year’s turnout to play in front of a lot of people, but also they are important games for us to stay on top,” Ammerman said. “I think both teams will play with a lot of energy, but nerves will play into the game just because there will be so many people.”How players and the teams react to the crowd will be a key factor in Saturday’s game.Johnson recognizes nerves may play a role in the game, but preaches the need to be consistent and focused despite how many people will be watching from the stands.“Playing Friday night and Saturday night is a bit different than a Friday afternoon which is certainly more quiet in the Kohl Center, and anytime you get energy in the building it creates some excitement,” Johnson said. “But until you drop the puck you don’t know how the team is going to react.”last_img

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