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.
Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments Published on November 18, 2018 at 3:51 pm Contact Eric: firstname.lastname@example.org | @esblack34 Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman turned back, disgusted, to pace towards his bench. His hands outstretched and his head facing up, Hillsman had no answers for his team’s sloppy performance. A game after defeating No. 20 Texas A&M by 10, the No. 18 Orange were struggling with unranked Bucknell.The sloppiness lasted three quarters, and after 30 minutes of play in which the teams combined for 45 turnovers, Syracuse needed to string together at least one period of clean play to clinch a victory. They did, as SU (3-1) outscored Bucknell (2-2), 16-8, in the fourth quarter to defeat the Bison, 70-56.After playing two top-20 opponents in consecutive games, Hillsman said Syracuse may have underestimated the talent of Bucknell at first.“You try and tell your kids how good this team is, then you get on the floor and they start knocking down shots,” he said. “I think it became real early in the game that we’re playing against a very good basketball team that was well-coached.”Both teams’ carelessness began early in the game, started by Bison point guard Abby Kapp. Kapp, who scored a team-high 11 points, turned the ball over twice in the opening two minutes to open the floodgates for the ball control struggles. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange tried early and often to feed the ball into the post, leading to a handful of turnovers by frontcourt players Amaya Finklea-Guity and Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi. Three turnovers by the two players alone prevented any separation in the first quarter, until Djaldi Tabdi pushed SU ahead, 12-6. The Bison responded with seven straight and took the lead themselves, though, thanks largely in part due to their shooting from deep. After the first quarter, the Orange had committed eight turnovers but still held onto a 15-13 lead.“I think we weren’t poised,” point guard Tiana Mangakahia said. “We were rushing things, we were throwing the ball away, silly turnovers. Things that we can control.”The second period appeared to show a change in SU, at least at first. A run put the Orange ahead 30-19 and in position to turn the game into a blowout, but the Bison stopped it.Again, after Syracuse looked to pull away, Bucknell responded with 3-pointers. By the end of the Bison’s answer, they’d scored nine points of their own to cut the SU lead to two with just seconds left. But instead of entering halftime on the wrong end of a run, the Orange flipped the script. Miranda Drummond nailed a 3-pointer in traffic on the left wing with just 1.4 seconds left and got fouled in the process, giving Syracuse some breathing room with a six-point lead at the break.“It’s a good feeling,” Drummond said, “especially when they just made a (run) before that.”Whatever momentum the Orange gained from Drummond’s 4-point play quickly dissipated. While they committed less than half the turnovers they gave away in the second quarter, this time Syracuse’s defense let it down. Its 2-3 zone lost its flexibility, and Bucknell’s 3-point shooters found themselves open time and time again. The Bison opened the second half on a 14-7 run, capped off by a 3-pointer following another SU turnover that gave it a 42-41 lead. Every time the Orange looked to make a run, the Bison answered. They hit five 3-pointers in the period, accounting for 15 of their 20 points. Eventually, Syracuse gave up trying to respond to the deep balls and began attacking inside to draw fouls. That allowed it to climb back, and a floater in the paint by Mangakahia gave SU a 54-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Hillsman told his players during the break before the final period to tighten up on defense, even if it allowed the Bison open lanes to the basket. The Orange had quelled their turnover issues, but they needed to fix their defense as well.“We had to push harder than in the first three quarters,” Mangakahia said. “We thought we should be ahead a little bit more … we had to stop them from shooting 3s and getting out.”In the fourth quarter, Syracuse put it all together. Djaldi-Tabdi opened the fourth with layups on two possessions to give the Orange a 10-point advantage, prompting Bucknell to call a timeout. After the break, the Bison came out firing against a tighter SU defense. The first three quarters saw the visitors make nine of their 19 attempts from 3. In the fourth, they missed all eight of them. Syracuse’s rotations defensively were quicker and more timely, and Bucknell failed to earn the same quality looks it had in the opening three quarters.Offensively, led by Mangakahia, the Orange were safer with the ball. Aside from a shot clock violation at the end of the game, SU committed just two turnovers in the fourth after giving away 21 prior. She hit her first 3 of the game midway through the quarter and on the next possession, sunk two free throws. Meanwhile, Bucknell’s turnover problems continued. Eight Bison giveaways in the fourth quarter allowed Syracuse to jump ahead for good and finally gave it full control of the game, even if it came later than it expected. For now, the Orange’s talent can help them survive in games where adjustments come slowly. They expect those changes to happen quicker in the future.“We still have a lot of practice and our chemistry has to fall a little bit better together,” Mangakahia said. “I think we have a lot of potential.”