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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Women's Hockey: Under Johnson, UW becomes one of nation's elite

Since Mark Johnson took over as head coach in 2002, few programs in collegiate women’s hockey have been as consistently successful as Wisconsin.

During Johnson’s tenure, the Badgers compiled a remarkable 331-64-30 record, a winning percentage of .814.

In 2006, Wisconsin captured its first national title, becoming the first school outside of the state of Minnesota to win the NCAA women’s hockey national championship.

UW followed this up by winning three more national titles in 2007, 2009 and 2011, cementing its place as one of the powerhouse programs in women’s hockey.

Considering all the success the team has seen since Johnson took over, it should come as no surprise that some of the best players in women’s hockey today have taken the ice for Wisconsin.

In fact, four UW players have won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the most outstanding player in NCAA Division I women’s hockey: forward Sara Bauer in 2006, goaltender Jessie Vetter in 2009, forward Meghan Duggan in 2011 and forward Brianna Decker in 2012.

Additionally, several Wisconsin greats have competed internationally at the Winter Olympics. At the 2014 Games, four former Badgers played for Team USA (Duggan, Vetter, Decker and Hilary Knight), while Meaghan Mikkelson represented the Canadians in Sochi.

In addition to the four national championships, Wisconsin has seven Frozen Four appearances, eight NCAA tournament appearances, four WCHA regular season titles and four WCHA tournament championships.

The most recent of these Frozen Four appearances was just this past season, during which the Badgers recorded a solid 28-8-2 record and finished second in the WCHA standings.

The 2013-’14 campaign featured some historic moments, most of which came courtesy of goaltender and team captain Alex Rigsby. She achieved several career milestones throughout the season, such as surpassing Vetter as UW’s all-time leader in wins while also becoming just the third goaltender in NCAA history to record 100 career victories.

While Wisconsin will be losing a few key players, including Rigsby and forward Madison Packer, there is plenty of reason for optimism heading into the 2014-’15 season. Four of the five top goal scorers from last season will be returning, including the leading scorer, forward Brittany Ammerman.

Sophomore goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens, who filled in for Rigsby while she was recovering from an injury, will take over between the pipes for the Badgers. Desbiens posted an 11-1-0 record with a 1.06 goals against average and .957 save percentage during her freshman campaign.

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Combine all these players with highly touted incoming forward Annie Pankowski, and there is every reason to believe that Mark Johnson and his team will be contending for a fifth national title during the 2014-’15 season.

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