Senior forward Scott Lorenz will look to provide the offense spark for UW against the Hoosiers.[/media-credit]The University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team will fight to extend its season at the Big Ten Tournament Thursday in Bloomington, Ind.The No. 5 Badgers will take on No. 4 Indiana Thursday morning, both battling for a spot in the semifinals and for bid to the NCAA Tournament.Although the Badgers lost their first encounter with the Hoosiers 1-0 earlier in the year, they come into the tournament with a 3-3 Big Ten record, including a 2-0 win over No. 1 seed Ohio St. and a 2-1 overtime win against No. 3 seed Northwestern. Those wins — along with a 5-3 record in its last eight games — give the team a lot of confidence going into the tournament.“We showed we can compete with anybody in the Big Ten, so I’m expecting us to do well,” said UW senior goal keeper Alex Horwath. “I think we can go three games in a row and hopefully bring it back to Madison.“Indiana is talented, but we’re definitely not afraid of them. We’re excited to play them; we’re looking forward to the opportunity,” he continued.With the top five teams in the Big Ten standings finishing within only a game of one another, the Badgers feel the tournament is an open contest. They also understand that they have to perform well in this tournament to get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament later this year. For the Badgers, the rest of the season is essentially a win-or-go-home situation.“Everyone’s focused for this week,” UW senior forward Scott Lorenz said. “We know that we have to at least get to the championship game — if not win it all — to guarantee ourselves a tournament bid, which is one of our preseason goals. So, for that to be still attainable is a lot of motivation for us going into the weekend.”With the schedule turning into the postseason, the dynamic of the game shifts, as there are no longer any draws and games may ultimately be decided by penalty kicks. UW’s practice Tuesday ended with about 20 minutes of pure penalty kicks, trying to find out who will take the kicks and also what goalkeeper will defend against them. The No. 2 goalie, Jamal Habibi, looked to have much better reads and made several saves compared to a seemingly lost Horwath. This may be due to a injury Horwath suffered a few weeks ago, but the coaches have discussed changes on the defensive side come penalty kicks.“If we get into that situation with penalty kicks, you want confident people in those spots, whether it’s the goalkeeper or your shooters,” said UW head coach Todd Yeagley. “And if [Horwath]’s not feeling great and we feel that one of our other keepers can give us a boost, then we wouldn’t be afraid to make a change for the penalty kicks only.”Wisconsin has been successful this year in overtime, going 3-1-2, though the team is looking to put the game away well before that is necessary.“We’re trying to win it ahead of time, but if overtime were to happen, we’re confident, and we know that we have the fitness to pull through in one of those situations,” Lorenz said.While the Badgers are nursing a few injuries, the Hoosiers have injury concerns of their own, as well as the loss of their star center back, Tommy Meyer, who will be ineligible due to a red card in a previous game. Indiana will have to patch a hole in an otherwise tight defense, and Wisconsin feels this will be an area they can really attack.“Meyer is their biggest player — certainly very good in the air — and we feel that we can take advantage of that from the run of play, off of restarts and in changing some matchups,” Yeagley said. “Without Meyer on the field, it does change how Indiana plays. However, they have a lot of good players they can move into that spot.”The Badgers face the Hoosiers Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Armstrong Stadium. If they win, the Badgers will then take on top seed Ohio State in the semifinals.
Stakes just got higher for the Wisconsin Women’s Hockey team, who will be finishing up their WCHA campaign this weekend.The best-of-three security blanket the Badgers previously had against University of Minnesota-Mankato is gone, and play in the WCHA Tournament is now single elimination. As the No. 2 Badgers (32-3-1, 24-3-1 WCHA) will take on No. 20 UM-Duluth (15-20-1, 10-17-1 WCHA) Saturday afternoon.Even though the Badgers swept UM-Duluth during both regular season matchups between the two programs, junior forward Mikayla Johnson knows the Bulldogs are still a threat to Wisconsin’s hopes of making the WCHA finals.“Playoff games are so different,” Johnson said. “People put so much more on the line. When we went there, they were the people that broke our shut-out record, so obviously know that they can put pucks in the net and that they can score.”Last time outThe last time the Badgers saw UM-Duluth, they walked away with a weekend sweep, winning 5-1 and 3-1.But the games against Duluth were not a walk in the park. The Bulldogs managed to slide pucks behind junior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, not just once, but twice. Considering Desbiens has allowed .77 goals per game this season, scoring twice was no small feat for UM-Duluth.Key aspects of the gameKeeping emotions in checkNow that the Badgers no longer have the security of a best of three series, every game is equally important for the rest of the Badgers’ season. Every game is a fight to their season alive.But winning also comes with consequences, and those consequences mean ending another team’s season. This can lead to a tougher, grittier game than most, with more power plays and scoring opportunities for Duluth.No good deed goes unpunishedIf Wisconsin wins on Saturday, there are high odds they will find themselves facing UM-Twin Cities in the WCHA Final. This means the Badgers would play their rival in Minneapolis with one day in between games.If the Badgers want to walk away from this weekend as WCHA Tournament winners, they need to be prepared to take on their rivals to get that title. With such little turn-around between games, the sooner they prepare the better.Opposing player to watch: Ashleigh BrykaliukBrykaliuk is UW-Duluth’s top goal scorer (18 goals, 29 assists), and currently leads her team with points on the season. The junior forward was also responsible for both assists during the team’s last matchup against Wisconsin. Anytime that Brykaliuk is near the net, she is a threat to Wisconsin keeping points off the scoreboard.