After losing their final two games of the regular season and therefore clinching the sixth seed in the upcoming Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) playoffs, the Minnesota State Women’s Hockey team is set to face the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers this weekend in Madison.
“It’s do or die. It’s playoffs,” said junior forward Sydney Langseth. The Mavericks’ season is on the line this weekend, and their only way to keep it alive is to win out.
With the upcoming NCAA tournament on the horizon, Minnesota State’s only hope of reaching its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance is to win the WCHA tournament. Since the Mavericks currently sit at No. 15 in the Pairwise Rankings, they are four spots out of the tournament, solely based on the strengths of their wins versus the strengths of their losses.
By winning the WCHA tournament, the Mavericks could bypass having to be top 11 in the Pairwise and would be allotted an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. They have to get there first, and standing in their way is the Wisconsin Badgers, a team that has title hopes of their own this season.
The two teams played each other four times this season, with the Badgers winning all four contests and outscored the Mavs 4-18. Wisconsin will present a tall task for Minnesota State, but Langseth believes an inseparable Maverick group can shock the Badgers this weekend.
“We have a lot of seniors on our team so that is something we are definitely going to play for,” said Langseth. “It is an emotional time but we do not want the season to be over. We have a tight-knit group of girls this year and that motivates us to play as a group, play for our seniors, and play Maverick hockey.”
This past weekend, the Mavericks were swept by St. Cloud State in what was a must-win series in order to clinch the fifth seed in the WCHA tournament that starts this weekend. No team wants to end their regular season with a loss, especially the way Minnesota State did. They will be looking to shake things up this weekend to knock off the Badgers.
Langseth explained that this past weekend’s blunders stemmed right from playstyle, something she thinks the team failed to remain consistent against the Huskies. In turn, she believes if the Mavericks get back to playing their way of hockey, they can shock the WCHA with an upset.
“We sort of lost something important to us this past weekend, and I think that was our ability to be playing Maverick Hockey,” said Langseth. “We know that Wisconsin is going to be loud and jam-packed and that is a super fun atmosphere to play in. We plan to use that to our advantage to help us come in ready to go.”
Langseth also went on to say, “It is going to be important for us to create offense from having good defense because they have very skilled forwards. We have had success in that all year, and I believe if we stick to those roots we will come out with wins.”
The first round of the WCHA tournament will be played in a best-of-three format before turning into a one-and-done tournament for the semifinal and final rounds. The higher-seeded team of the first-round matchup will host their lower-seeded opponent.
Whichever team wins the first round best-of-three, will then travel to Ridder Arena in Minneapolis for the semifinal and final rounds of the 2023 Kwik Trip WCHA Final Faceoff.
As for this weekend, the Mavericks will kick off their series against the Badgers in Madison, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Game two will begin the following day at 3 p.m. If necessary, game three will be played Feb. 26 at 3:30 p.m. to decide who moves on to the Final Faceoff.
Write to Kole Buelow at Kole.Buelow@mnsu.edu
Header photo: The MSU Women’s Hockey team heads to Wisconsin for the WCHA Quarterfinals this weekend with their first game Friday, Feb. 24. (Lilly Anderson)