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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Breaking ice and glass ceilings

Meet some of the leading Wisconsin women’s hockey alumni breaking societal barriers in their sport and beyond.

Wisconsin athletics have a history of creating powerful moments through engaging sports stories. We’ve seen it through the Miracle on Ice, the 2019 and 2021 women’s volleyball championships, the 1994 Rose Bowl against UCLA, and more. 

This legacy continues through the Wisconsin spirit and dedication from Badgers fans, athletes and staff. That passion shows stronger than ever in Wisconsin’s current women’s hockey community. 

As we transition into Women’s History Month, let’s take a closer look at the Olympic hockey-playing women from UW-Madison, a list that includes several stars such as Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan, Brianna Decker and Alex (Rigsby) Cavallini. 

All of these women have incredible skill on the ice, but it’s what they are doing off of it that inspires the next generation of girls. 

Carla MacLeod: 2006, 2010 

Carla MacLeod is the first two-time gold medalist at the Olympics from Wisconsin’s women’s hockey program. MacLeod earned her medals with Team Canada, her home nation, during the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. Instead of continuing her playing career when the next set of games rolled around, MacLeod joined Team Japan as an assistant coach for the 2014 Olympics. 

With the Badgers, MacLeod played from 2001-2005, became a two-time team captain and helped lead her team to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2005. During her time, she was named 2005 USCHO Defensive Player of the Year and awarded the 2005 Big Ten Medal of Honor. In another recent historic development, MacLeod was named the first coach of the PWHL in September and has served for Ottawa’s team. 

See more about Carla MacLeod on “The Importance of Creating Authentic Connections” in relation to coaching here (via The Coaches Site on YouTube).

Molly Engstrom: 2006, 2010

A native of Siren, Wisconsin, Molly Engstrom came to UW-Madison in 2001 and was selected WCHA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005. After earning a degree in Natural Resources and Landscape Architecture, Engstrom went on to play for the U22 National and then the Senior National Team until 2013

Engstrom made her Olympic debut in 2006, earning the bronze medal with Team USA. The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver led to a silver medal, and Engstrom was one of nine former Badgers in the Olympics and one of seven playing for Team USA during these games. Engstrom spent the 2018-2022 seasons coaching the defensive team at St. Cloud State. Since 2022, Engstrom has worked as head coach of the University of Maine’s women’s hockey program. 

Read more about Engstrom’s work at St. Cloud here (via St. Cloud Women’s Hockey).

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Erika Lawler: 2010

Erika Lawler played for UW-Madison from 2005 to 2009 and was crowned captain in her senior season. Lawler was a part of three national championship teams at Wisconsin and led the league in assists during her senior year. 

Along with seven of her former Badger teammates, Lawler skated for Team USA in the 2010 Olympic games. After retiring from hockey, Lawler has worked both as a director of the NWHLPA and as a broadcast analyst for NBC Sports.  

Read more about Lawler’s years off from hockey here (via Worcester Telegram & Gazette).

Jinelle (Zaugg) Siergiej: 2010

From Eagle River, Wisconsin, Jinelle Siergiej is another Badger on this list to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. As a part of the 2006 and 2007 NCAA Championships at UW-Madison, Siergiej helped the U.S. team earn a silver medal. Siergiej skated for Team USA for five years. 

This year marks Siergiej’s tenth season coaching St. Cloud State Women’s Hockey and her record there is extensively impressive. She’s recruited and coached five Olympians, a Conference Goaltender of the Year and eleven All-Conference selections. Also, Siergiej has created a perfect blend of student-athletes, helping 59 of her players earn WCHA Scholar Athlete recognition.  

Learn about Siergiej’s Olympic triumphs and more here (via WisconsinPrep Hockey).

Kerry Weiland: 2010

Kerry Weiland competed in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 alongside six other Badgers playing for Team USA. She scored one goal against opponent Team Sweden in the silver medal win. 

Women’s hockey started at Wisconsin for the 1999-2000 season, the year Weiland was offered an athletic scholarship. At Wisconsin, Weiland was an all-conference pick during her entire four years and she earned All-America honors during her junior season. On September 10, 2015, Weiland pushed down another wall and became the first women’s hockey player to be inducted into the Wisconsin Athletics Hall Of Fame. 

Read more about Weiland’s Hall of Fame induction here (via Frontiersman).

Jessie Vetter: 2010, 2014

Jessie Vetter was a powerhouse of a goaltender at the 2010 Olympic games, allowing only three goals and creating 68 saves in her Olympic debut. Vetter led Wisconsin to three NCAA titles during her career in Madison. She set the NCAA record for goals against average in 2007, and in 2009 she won the Patty Kazmaier Award

Vetter also became the first Badger to be named Bob Allen Women’s Hockey Player of the Year. She is now followed by former and present Wisconsin players: Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Abby Roque and Caroline Harvey. 

Vetter retired from hockey in 2016 to be able to put more attention on her charity golfing events and opportunities at the Children’s Hospital. The annual Jessie Vetter Golf Classic partners with UW Health and American Family Children’s Hospital to benefit patients. 

Read more about Vetter’ legacy at Wisconsin here (via Isthmus).

Hilary Knight: 2010, 2014, 2018

Hilary Knight has appeared in four consecutive Olympics: the 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022 games. In her first tournament appearance, Knight created one goal and seven assists, tallying eight points

Knight had an impressive record at Wisconsin. She was part of the Badgers’ 2009 and 2011 NCAA champion teams and was named captain for the 2012 season

However, she’s even more impressive off the ice. In 2019, Knight began working for the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association in an effort to create a single professional women’s hockey league in North America. Now in the PWHL world, Knight is the captain of the Boston team and signed a three-year deal with the team. 

Read Hilary Knight’s feature in The Athletic’s Best of 2022 here.

Learn about Hilary Knight and other female athletes closing the gap in women’s hockey here (via Just Women’s Sports).

Meaghan Mikkelson: 2010, 2014, 2018

A three-time Olympian for Team Canada, Meaghan Mikkelson is from St. Albert, Alberta. Her medal count includes two golds and one silver at Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018, respectively.

At Wisconsin, Mikkelson earned All-American honors, even after switching from forward to defense. In the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, Mikkelson helped the Badgers find victory in the NCAA championship

Starting in 2020, Mikkelson worked as a broadcaster with the Edmonton Oilers before accepting a job with the Calgary Flames in 2023. In this position she became the first female radio commentator for the Flames

Check out Mikkelson’s story of overcoming an injury and redefining success here (via a Twitter post from Mikkelson). 

Meghan Duggan: 2010, 2014, 2018

Meghan Duggan is the final player on this list who competed in the 2010 Winter Olympic games. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Meghan Duggan became the second UW-Madison alumna to captain Team USA twice, joining Cammi Granato. She scored four goals in the 2010 Olympic games and tallied one goal and one assist in the 2014 tournament. In total, Duggan has one gold and two silver Olympic medals

During her time at Wisconsin, Duggan helped the team to the NCAA national championship each year. They took home the championship trophy in her junior and senior seasons with the Badgers. Duggan became the national leader in points in her final season (2010-11) with 39 goals and 48 assists. 

Currently, Duggan works as a player development director for the New Jersey Devils, but she is involved in many more areas of the hockey world. Between working on an inclusion board and creating more space for women in the sport, Duggan is using her position to share her passion with everyone. 

Check out Duggan’s LinkedIn page here to learn more about her work.

Brianna Decker: 2014, 2018

Three-time Olympian Brianna Decker just retired from Team USA last March, and she left a strong legacy behind. Decker earned one gold medal, two silver medals and six world championships with the U.S. national team. She graduated from UW-Madison in 2013, where her trailblazing also had a far-reaching impact. 

Decker played in every single game of her sophomore and junior years and held the title of team captain in her senior year with the return on investment of 29 goals, 26 assists and 55 points. She continues to carry Wisconsin’s record for the longest scoring streak at 32 consecutive games. Also of note, Decker beat every competitor in a skills competition during the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend, where the runner-up was Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl. 

Look back on Decker’s national career here (via CBC Sports). 

Emily Clark: 2018

Emily Clark has played for Team Canada in both the 2018 and 2022 Winter Olympics, bringing home silver and gold medals, respectively. At UW-Madison, Clark’s journey is one of triumph. Both her freshman and sophomore years ended by reaching the Frozen Four, and the team reached the NCAA championship in her junior year. 

Finally, during her senior year, Clark wore the ‘A’ and the Badgers won the NCAA national title. Clark began playing for Ottawa in the PWHL this year, a team coached by Clark’s mentor, Carla MacLeod. MacLeod also has Olympic games under her belt and was one of the reasons Clark chose Wisconsin. 

Read a feature story on Emily Clark here (via The Hockey News).

Alex (Rigsby) Cavallini: 2018, 2022

Alex (Rigsby) Cavallini has an incredible resume as a Badger goalie. She joined Wisconsin in 2014 and set the school record for most saves in a single season (2011-12). Cavallini also played in the third annual “Fill the Bowl” game, where the NCAA single-game women’s ice hockey attendance record was broken as 12,402 fans filled the Kohl Center. Cavallini earned her sixth shutout of the season during this game. 

In the Olympic realm, Cavallini has earned herself a gold and silver medal in the 2018 and 2022 games, respectively. In 2009, Cavallini became the first female to be drafted into the USHL, and she was selected by the Chicago Steel. Like many others on this list, Cavallini has been a part of the Professional Women Hockey Players Association since it began in 2019

Read about Cavallini’s work to bridge the gender gap in hockey here (via The Players’ Tribune). 

Blayre Turnbull: 2018, 2022

Native to Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Blayre Turnbull laced up skates when she was only two and began playing hockey at age five. After being selected to play for Wisconsin, Turnbull went on to record 98 career points and was named captain of the 2014-15 team. 

During her first Badgers season, Turnbull was named Rookie of the Year for helping the team get to the NCAA championship. Turnbull won both the silver and gold medals at the Olympics, recording four goals in the 2022 games. When the PWHL started up, Turnbull got the call to Toronto, where she is currently captain

Read a discussion about Turnbull and her assistant captains here (via The Hockey News).

Sarah Nurse: 2018, 2022

Sarah Nurse started at Wisconsin in the 2013-14 season where she played in all 38 games and racked up 21 total points with 11 goals and 10 assists. Notably, she led the team with 228 shots on goal in her junior season. During her senior season, Nurse was named one of the team’s alternate captains, likely for her help getting the Badgers to the Frozen Four throughout each of her seasons in Madison.

In Nurse’s second Olympics appearance, the Beijing 2022 Olympics, she broke the record for single-tournament points tallied in an Olympic tournament. A Hamilton, Ontario native, Nurse holds one silver and one gold medal, both for Team Canada. Nurse is currently playing for Toronto in the PWHL and serves as a player representative to the PWHPA. 

Read more about Nurse’s experience in hockey and working for the PWHPA here (via NHL Players' Association).

Abby Roque: 2022

Abby Roque is a forward from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan who played four full seasons at Wisconsin from 2016 to 2020. Roque left an extensive legacy in Madison. She was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year during her freshman year, led the WCHA with 41 points in her sophomore year, and recorded a point in each of Wisconsin’s final nine contests in her junior year. During her senior year, Roque was in the top three for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award and was awarded the WCHA Player of the Year title. Roque served as an alternate captain that year and broke her previous scoring record with 58 points. 

After graduating from UW-Madison, Roque went on to join Minnesota’s PWHPA team, playing there for one year before switching to Team USA. At the 2022 Olympics, Roque was the only nonwhite player. She told Olympics.com at the time that she wanted her visibility to make a difference for the Indigenous community and other minority groups in the hockey world. During these games, Roque tallied one goal and two assists

Roque has used this season to get in on the PWHL action and play for New York’s team. Currently, Roque has eight points for the team. 

Learn more about Roque’s journey as an indigenous hockey player here (via Sports Illustrated).

Caroline Harvey: 2022

Caroline Harvey led Wisconsin’s  2022-23 season. Awarded the title of Bob Allen Player of the Year, Harvey became the sixth Badger to receive this honor. At Wisconsin, Harvey appeared in all 41 games her rookie season and became Wisconsin’s first rookie All-American since 2001. Harvey has tallied 31 points this season for a total of 70 career points at Wisconsin. A defensive player from Salem, New Hampshire, Harvey played for Team USA in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. She was the youngest player on this roster at only 19 years old and now has 27 points with Team USA. 

Read about Harvey’s development in hockey here (via the Associated Press).

Laila Edwards

An honorable mention in this list is present Badgers forward Laila Edwards. From Cleveland Heights, Ohio, the 6-foot-1 sophomore has played for Team USA in several international tournaments. In the rivalry series against Canada last November, Edwards became the first Black woman to play on the U.S. senior national hockey team. 

After the games, people started reaching out to Edwards. 

“It made me feel as if I’m making a difference and I think that is my main goal, especially right now, to make a difference and be a role model,” Edwards told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about her position in November. 

Before starting her freshman year at Madison, Edwards proved her skill and was named top forward and MVP on Team USA. The Badgers won the NCAA title while Edwards was a freshman, and she was named to the Frozen Four all-tournament Team. 

Learn about Edwards’ experience on Team USA here (via The Athletic).

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