first_imgWith just 10 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, the No. 1-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team will look to tie up any remaining loose ends and build on what has been a near-perfect season.”Well, we’ve been pretty consistent with our statements and what we want to do as a group, and that gets better each weekend,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “We’ve certainly made some strides in the early part of September to where we are now, but now it’s time to elevate the bar a little bit more. The team has done some real nice things up to this point, and we’ve won a lot of hockey games, but now you got to keep watering it and put a little fertilizer on it and grow with it.”This weekend, Johnson’s squad will face off against WCHA cellar-dweller Bemidji State. In terms of conference standing, not much has changed since the two teams squared off in early December, as Wisconsin remains atop the national rankings while Bemidji is second to last in the WCHA.While the Badgers took care of the Beavers with ease in their first meeting 10-3, Bemidji State played tough in the series, as the score remained tied until the Badgers pulled away late in the third period.”In the first game, the puck went in real quick. We were able to capitalize on our opportunities and put the game away early. But the next night they came out hard and their goaltender played very well and it ends up being a close game,” Johnson said. “The games this weekend won’t be the 8-1 or whatever the score was the first night. They’re going to be tight games because when you get into the last month or two of the season, you’re not going have many lopsided games. Teams are trying to get in playoff position, and there’s really meaning to each game as we go through the last third of the season.”Since winter break, the Beavers have been playing quality hockey against some of the elite teams in the country. While their second-half record remains at an unimpressive 2-6-0, the Beavers have endured two one-goal losses at the hands of No. 3-ranked Minnesota-Duluth and their wins have come against No. 4-ranked Minnesota and WCHA counterpart Minnesota State.”Bemidji really took it to us last time and just based on that series and what they’ve done lately, I don’t think that we should take them lightly,” junior defender Bobbi Jo Slusar said. “We need to go both games as hard as we can, bring it right at them and don’t let them skate, shoot or get comfortable.”Aside from making their opponents uncomfortable, Slusar and the rest of the Badger defense have been making significant contributions in the offensive zone while allowing a stingy 1.50 goals per game. Slusar is tied for third on the team with 27 points while junior defender Meaghan Mikkelson is sixth on the team with 20.”Offensively I like to jump up in the play and get involved when I can. It’s always nice to contribute in more ways than one, but it depends on how the game is going,” Slusar said. “I try to balance my offensive game with my primary job as a defender, which is to keep the puck out of the net.”In the offensive zone, the Badgers have been quite the juggernaut this season, outscoring their opponents 100-37. Assistant captain and leading scorer Sara Bauer has been nearly unstoppable this season, flustering opposing defenses with her speed and agility.”Well, [Bauer] is what we like to call in the coaching ranks the whole package. She loves to go to school here and loves to play hockey, and she is very good at both,” Johnson said. “[Bauer] is a leader on and off the ice and she comes prepared for practice and games, and it shows on the ice.”Bemidji State’s interim head coach is former Badger Sis Paulson, who will surely be paying close attention to Bauer for a number of reasons. Not only is Bauer the focal point of the Badger offense, but Paulson sits third on UW’s all time scorers list, just four points ahead of Bauer.last_img