When a team spent its last year dominating all of its competition, losing just two games all year on the way to a third national championship in four years, it's reasonable to expect an equally dominant season from them the next year.
For the Wisconsin women's hockey team, there is little guarantee that the 2009-10 season will be the dominant romp last year was, even though the team earned a preseason No. 1 ranking.
The Badgers' top four scorers will not play this year, as Erika Lawler and Angie Keseley graduated and Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan will spend the year on the U.S. Olympic Team. Dominant goaltender Jessie Vetter and defender Rachel Bible also graduated in the spring, meaning Wisconsin has big skates to fill on both offense and defense.
Add to that the year-long sabbatical of head coach Mark Johnson, who left to lead Team USA at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and there have been some major shakeups that could threaten the Wisconsin women's hockey dynasty.
Interim head coach Tracey DeKeyser said the team's first game, against North Dakota Friday, will help show how much the team has changed.
""With the number of new people we have in the program this year and the new staff members, I know we're all excited to get started and just kind of see where this team shakes out with the competition,"" DeKeyser said.
The summer has not been all bad news for Wisconsin, as the Badgers welcomed highly touted freshman Brianna Decker to the team. Decker was named WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year, and senior goaltender Alannah McCready praised the skill she will bring to the Wisconsin offense.
""She's a goal-scorer,"" McCready said. ""We're lucky to have her.""
Rebuilding the offense will be crucial if the team wants to replicate its success from the 2008-09 season. Senior forward Jasmine Giles said returning players will have to produce in the place of offensive powers like Knight, Duggan and Lawler.
""Having the opportunity to just get out there even that little bit more on the ice, you'll definitely see people step up and get more goals than they did last year,"" Giles said.
Giles, who was named team captain over the summer, said she will try to bring the same intensity, now that she is one of the team leaders.
""It's definitely an honor to have received the ‘C' but I'm not going to change anything,"" she said. ""I'm going to play just as hard.""
DeKeyser praised Giles' leadership skills, saying she and other returning players have stepped up to help the transitioning team.
Another point of contention for the Badgers will be the team's starting goaltender.
Although McCready backed up Vetter last year, DeKeyser said she has still not picked out a starter between McCready, redshirt freshman Nikki Kaasa and true freshman Becca Reugsegger.
""We've left it open, it's up for grabs and the ones that perform the best are going to get the nod,"" she said.
DeKeyser said the goaltender for the team's series against North Dakota will be determined based on who performs best in practice this week.
So while the 2008-09 season was all about a veteran squad running away with the national title, this year's team will have a much tougher road to that success. The puck drops on the 2009-10 season at the Kohl Center Friday at 7 p.m.