The Wisconsin women’s hockey team was the center of quite the Cinderella story this season, entering the NCAA tournament unseeded with few playoff expectations, to winning the 2023 championship.
The entire team succeeded against all odds, but one player in particular represented this underdog story the most — goalie Cami Kronish.
The redshirt senior started only three games for the Badgers prior to this year. She and Jane Gervais worked together, splitting time in goal evenly at the beginning of the 2022-23 season.
Head Coach Mark Johnson evidently saw something in Kronish’s performance and character early on and instilled his faith in her as goalie. On Nov. 19, Kronish took over full time, starting nearly every game for the rest of the season.
Shortly after, she earned her first ever WCHA Goaltender of the Week award following an outstanding show in a Border Battle game against Minnesota, making 26 saves. The success only continued from there, as Kronish averaged 23 saves per game for the rest of the season, even exceeding 40 three times.
Additionally, she earned eight total shutouts after securing her first against Lindenwood in the second game of the season.
Kronish showed out all season, but the championship game proved her value on the biggest stage. The New York native finished with an astounding 31 saves and no goals surrendered. To add to the pressure, the Badgers only scored one goal — from freshman Kirsten Simms early.
It all came down to the third period, but her teammates felt confident with Kronish in goal. In the final minute of play, she faced shots from six Buckeye skaters after they pulled their goalie.
Despite the pressure, she remained calm and collected with cat-like reflexes, swatting and catching any shot that came her way until the last seconds counted down on the clock. Right as the final buzzer sounded, Kronish threw off her gloves before being swarmed by her teammates to celebrate the historic win.
While credit is certainly owed to Kronish for her truly exceptional performance this season, the Badgers were lucky enough to be backed by a record-breaking coach.
Johnson extended his record as the winningest coach in NCAA women’s collegiate hockey — which he earned in 2018 — with a career record of 565 games won. Regardless of the up-and-down season, coach Johnson remained irrefutably supportive and maintained belief in their potential, admitting, “Part of the process is having some bumps along the way.”
It all paid off in the end for this exceptional team and program, who now lead Division 1 in most won national titles at seven. Kirsten Simms, Cami Kronish and Coach Mark Johnson all deserve acclaim for their incredible contributions in the championship game as well as the rest of the season.