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Friday, May 24, 2024
Olympics inspire border battle among Badgers

feature: Canadians Mallory Deluce and Carolyne Prevost, left and right, take part in a good-natured rivalry with Americans like Brooke Ammerman, center, while some of their teammates play at the Vancouver Olympics.

Olympics inspire border battle among Badgers

Like a lot of Canadians, sophomore forward Carolyne Prevost and junior forward Mallory Deluce feel a great sense of national pride during the Vancouver Olympics and want to see their country do well. Unlike a lot of their countrymen, however, Prevost and Deluce have some close ties to players on the other side of a border that divides two countries and creates one of the best rivalries in hockey.

Prevost, Deluce, head coach Tracey DeKeyser and a number of Canadian Badgers are watching these Olympics with a soft spot for Team USA, normally Canada's biggest rival.

With seven current or former Wisconsin women's hockey players wearing the red, white and blue along with head coach Mark Johnson, it's easy to see why they are wishing their Badger teammates well at the games.

At the end of the day, though, their allegiances rest firmly on the northern side of the border.

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""I want my teammates to do well, I'm hoping for a good Canada-USA final,"" Prevost said. ""But in the end I have to go with my country for sure.""

Deluce, who has played alongside Prevost on Team Canada squads as recently as winter break, echoed that sentiment.

""I wish the best to the Badger girls, but [I'm] definitely rooting for Canada,"" Deluce said.

When asked about who she will cheer for, DeKeyser jokingly gave her scripted, politically correct answer: ""I hope the best team wins and there [are] no injuries."" But she admitted that no matter how many ties she or other Canadian players might have to the Americans, they will always root for the country they grew up watching.

""You're excited for coach Johnson, obviously, he's like family to me and I probably know more of the Americans more closely, but when you're born in a certain country ... it's just who you are, it's your heritage, it's your roots,"" she said.

This year's Canada-USA rivalry has been even more intense than normal. With the Olympics looming, the teams faced off in a number of heated, hard-fought exhibition contests in the past few months, one of which even erupted into a multi-player brawl a few months ago.

Obviously, the rivalry has not been that intense between the Canadians and Americans at Wisconsin, but there has been some friendly back-and-forth between the players. When Prevost and Deluce walked out of the lockerroom with a Canadian flag, for instance, freshman forward Brianna Decker jokingly suggested they burn it.

""It's all just for fun, obviously they're going for the States,"" Prevost said. ""But if Canada wins I'll be in their faces for sure.""

DeKeyser said the border competition has been part of Badger hockey for years.

""There's an honest and friendly rivalry going on,"" DeKeyser said. ""That's hockey—it's always Canada-U.S. mixed, it's always been like that here at Wisconsin.

""It's fun and we're encouraging them to watch it because it's some of the best hockey players in the world.""

For many of the players, part of the rivalry is the idea that, in four years, they could be taking part as well. Deluce said getting a chance to play in the Olympics would be a dream, while sophomore forward Brooke Ammerman, who has played with a number of Team USA squads at various age levels, and said she did not want to look quite that far into the future.

""Whatever happens, happens,"" Ammerman said. ""Four years from now is a long ways away, so I just take it kind of in the moment and see what happens year by year.""

No matter what side of the border the players fall on, all of them want to see their teammates do well at the games. Prevost joked about her dream gold medal scenario that would see her former teammates Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan and Erika Lawler do well but ultimately fall to Canada.

""If there could be a 10-9 game,"" she said, ""and Hilary, Duggan and Lawler score a hat trick and Canada wins 10-9, that'd be great.""

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