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COLLEGE WOMEN: The new season

When the UND women's hockey players walked into the locker room on Monday, there was a fresh note on the board. It read "North Dakota 0, Wisconsin 0." The Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs begin this weekend and UND's interim coach D...

When the UND women's hockey players walked into the locker room on Monday, there was a fresh note on the board.

It read "North Dakota 0, Wisconsin 0."

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs begin this weekend and UND's interim coach Dennis Miller is hoping the Sioux forget about regular-season records as they travel to Wisconsin for the best-of-three quarterfinal series.

The reason behind Miller's method is simple. Looking at regular-season records and scores, UND shouldn't be able to match up with Wisconsin.

The Badgers are defending national champion. They won the league title. They beat UND four times this season by a combined score of 26-2. The Badgers have arguably the top player in the country in Sara Bauer, and they've lost only one time since mid-February of last year.

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The Sioux finished eighth in the league, going winless in 28 WCHA games. They've never defeated Wisconsin in the five years of the women's hockey program at UND. The leading scorer for the Sioux this season has eight points, while Bauer had seven alone in a series against UND.

Throw all of that out, though, Miller said.

"I've never went into a game coaching where I didn't think I was going to win," Miller said. "As a coach and as an athlete, you always have to have that mindset."

The series begins at 7:07 tonight in the Kohl Center. Game 2 will be at 7:37 p.m. Saturday and if the teams split those meetings, the third and decisive game will be at 7:37 p.m. Sunday.

To beat the Badgers, UND needs to put together its best performance of the year, Miller said. Wisconsin is talented, experienced and disciplined. It's a combination that led the Badgers to a 29-1-4 mark this season. The lone loss was a 2-0 defeat to Minnesota-Duluth in November.

"They don't have any weaknesses," Miller said. "They have a lot of skilled players and they all play within their system. You would think, at times, they would stray from it because of all the talent they have. But they don't."

Wisconsin has shut out 13 opponents and hasn't allowed a goal in more than 127 minutes this season. That could spell trouble for the Sioux, who have struggled greatly to score in WCHA games.

But Miller said he hopes the Sioux can put the regular season behind them and find consistency.

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"We've been saying it for several weeks now we're still looking for consistency," Miller said. "We expected some growing pains and we've had some growing pains. We've grown a great deal, though. The biggest thing has been learning what is expected at this level on a daily basis.

"Believe me, we want to win as much as anyone else."

Reach Schlossman at 780-1129, (800) 477-6572 ext. 129 or bschlossman@gfherald.com .

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