GREG DIXON/Herald photoThe playoffs can bring out the very best in a team, or they can expose a team?s weakness. The Wisconsin women?s hockey team (26-7-3, 20-5-3 WCHA) will play Minnesota (27-5-4, 21-5-2 WCHA) in the semifinal of the Final Face-off on Saturday, and they are expecting to give Minnesota their very best effort.?Yeah, the playoffs bring a lot of pressure,? goaltender Jessie Vetter said. ?But with pressure comes good games and good teams to play against. We like the competition, and obviously it is a lot of fun to play in that atmosphere. We enjoy being in this situation, and I think the playoffs will bring out our best hockey.?In what will be the biggest game of the year so far, the Badgers are looking forward to competing against the border rival Gophers. UW has had mixed success against UMN this year, posting a 2-1-1 record, including a 5-1 thrashing they delivered two weeks ago.?We are two really competitive teams,? Vetter said. ?We both do well in the league, and we have got a lot of friends on both sides. It is just fun to play Minnesota because it is always a good game.??It is a huge rivalry, and hands down they are my favorite team to play against,? sophomore Meghan Duggan said. ?They are a gritty team, they play clean and hard, which is exactly how we play. So any time we play them it is a great battle, and I am sure the game will only be decided by one or two goals.?The Badgers ? who scored nine total goals in their sweep of Minnesota State last weekend ? have yet to win a game this year in which they haven?t scored three or more goals. Fortunately for UW, however, the Badgers have scored three or more goals in 16 of their last 18 games.Spearheading the potent offensive attack is Duggan. Duggan, after starting the year slowly, has recorded 24 points in her last 14 games and leads the Badgers with 39 points on the season.?We are just heading into the weekend hoping to play like we did when we played them last time,? Duggan said. ?We have been on a roll lately. The chemistry has been good and our lines have been clicking, so if we play hard, good things will happen.?Duggan scored two goals last Saturday in the team’s 5-0 win over Minnesota State. Making the performance even more impressive, however, was the fact that Duggan played center, a position she has never played in her collegiate career.?I don?t know if I will [play center] this weekend because it is up to Coach [Mark Johnson],? Duggan said. ?If he thinks that it is best for the team, then it is best for the team, and I will play it. If he wants to put me at wing, center, defense, goalies, I?ll do it. I will do anything to help the team.?UW will have to do more than just score goals though, if they are to win this playoff game and advance to the final. Led by junior Gigi Marvin and senior Erika McKenzie, the Gophers boast the second highest scoring offense in the WCHA at 3.4 goals per game.?There are a lot of little things that we have to do,? Vetter said. ?We have to get on the board quick and stay out of the box, because Minnesota has a very good power play.?
Carrying on tradition · Interim head coach Clay Helton became the eighth consecutive coach to win his debut at the Coliseum after the Trojans 42-24 rout of No. 3-ranked and Pac-12 South leader Utah last Saturday. – Mariya Dondonyan | Daily TrojanAfter snapping a two game losing streak at home to No. 3 Utah, the Trojans travel north to face NFL prospect Jared Goff and the Cal Golden Bears.The Trojans improved to 4-3 with last week’s win, while the Bears have lost their last two games after beginning the season undefeated, dropping to 5-2.The game will come down to a battle of the quarterbacks. USC is led by redshirt senior Cody Kessler while the Bears are led by Goff, a true junior.Both are three year starters. Goff is 10th in the nation in passing yards per game with 323.6 and is tied for ninth in touchdown passes with 20. Kessler is 18th with 297.4 yards and tied for 11th with 18 touchdowns, respectively.“It’s going to be very competitive obviously … but at the end of the day, I’ve known Jared for a while now,” Kessler said. “We’re good friends. We’re going to be buddies no matter what happens.”Goff has completed 65.5 percent of his passes this season, throwing for 2,265 yards this season. Though Goff already has 20 touchdown passes this season, he has also thrown nine interceptions.Five of those interceptions came in Cal’s first loss of the season when they fell 30-24. They went on to lose the following game to UCLA.Despite Goff’s five interceptions, he kept his team in the game through the final drive, and the Bears almost went 6-0 before Josh Rosen and the Bruins handed them their first beatdown of the season.Goff began the season as a Heisman hopeful and an NFL prospect, and though he is no longer in the running for the Heisman, he is still a top quarterback prospect.“Unbelievable anticipatory thrower, in my opinion,” interim head coach Clay Helton said. “You can tell he’s been around that receiving corps for a while. They’re on the same page. He throws guys open. He has no fear. He is able to fit balls into tight windows. There’s two NFL quarterbacks on that field Saturday. It should be fun.”Goff’s 20 touchdown passes are not only a result of his arm strength, but also of the talent at wide receiver.Junior wide receiver Kenny Lawler has nine touchdowns on 39 receptions and 497 yards. His 6-foot-3 frame makes him a favorite in the red zone. Lawler is one of four Cal receivers with at least 400 yards this season.Goff will face a Trojan defense that is coming off a record performance against No. 3 Utah. Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith intercepted Utah quarterback Travis Wilson three times.Goff is typically an accurate passer with a lot of poise, but as he demonstrated against Utah, can get rattled and start making bad reads. The key for the defense will be to force Cal to run the ball and make Goff a non-factor.After playing mainly on offense against Utah, sophomore cornerback Adoree’ Jackson will switch back to defense against Cal.“It will be a game-to-game plan in terms of how we use him,” Helton said. “Last week was more of a run-oriented offense we faced, but this week is a passing offense, so I anticipate him playing more on defense this weekend.”On offense, Kessler will rely on his experience to lead his team past Cal. Though Goff’s 6-foot-5 stature and his arm strength make him a better quarterback on paper, Kessler’s poise in the pocket makes up for what he lacks in height.Kessler leads an offense that has been greatly depleted by injury, especially on the offensive line and its wide receving corps.Sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is fifth in the nation in receptions with 128.7 yards per game and has five games with over 100 yards.There isn’t a lot of depth behind him, however, as junior Isaac Whitney is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone and Steven Mitchell Jr. is ruled as questionable with an ankle injury. Darreus Rogers has been upgraded to probable after recovering from a hamstring injury.Kessler will need Smith-Schuster to continue making big plays and picking up yards after the catch, and he’ll need the run game to continue to be unstoppable. Justin Davis and Tre Madden have been a dangerous one-two punch on the ground to complement Kessler and Smith-Schuster in the air.If the Trojans click the way they did against Utah, the Goff and the Bears will have their hands full. Cal is a solid team, however, and will be eager to snap a two game losing streak at home.Kick off is set for 12:30 p.m. at the California Memorial Stadium. It will be aired live on FOX. read more