It’s playoff time. The time of year when players show they either have it, or they don’t. Whether their nerves will get the best of them, or they won’t. When the seniors try to make their last entry into the history books and when the freshman learn about the true meaning of playoff hockey.
But if you talked to UW freshman goaltender Alex Rigsby, it would be hard to tell the pressures of playoff hockey are imminent.
“I’m really excited for this weekend. It’ll be great,” Rigsby said. “Everyone says how loud it gets up at the Eagles Nest and I’m just excited to get the playoffs started. I’ve been looking forward to this the entire season.”
Not nervous, worried, anxious, terrified, mortified, petrified, stupefied or any other kind of -fied. Just excited.
It’s that type of attitude the up-and-coming netminder has carried with her throughout the regular season. Rigsby possesses a game and a confidence that has vaulted her name into third on the WCHA conference stat sheet in goals against average (1.79) and first in winning percentage (.913).
The freshman wasn’t afforded an easy path to success this season either. Last summer Rigsby sustained a hip injury that required surgery, which she didn’t fully recover from until halfway through this year.
In the beginning of the season, the longer recovery time after games led to a lot of split starts with her counterpart sophomore goaltender Becca Ruegsegger. But as the season wore on, Rigsby grew stronger and was eventually able to start multiple games in a row.
“I’m feeing great now,” Rigsby said. “There’s nothing holding me back from playing my game. I’m feeling great from my injury so I’ve just continued to work on that and just make sure I don’t go back to how I was at the beginning of the season.”
The Badgers are set to begin their playoff run against St. Cloud State this weekend at Verona’s Eagle’s Nest Ice Arena in the first round of the WCHA conference tournament. Head coach Mark Johnson will likely test Rigsby’s ability to go on back-to-back nights once again.
“If you look at my track record, generally, we play one goalie during the playoffs,” Johnson said.
Considering the statistics the freshman has put up this season, there’s a great chance Rigsby will get the call.
Johnson says he isn’t averse to switching out Rigsby for Ruegsegger during the playoff run, but most head coaches are hesitant to pull a netminder when they are in the midst of a hot streak.
In Rigsby’s last four starts, she has allowed a combined total of three goals with two shut outs.
According to sophomore defenseman Stefanie McKeough, each goaltender plays their position in a different manner.
Rigsby, for instance, uses her voice to assert herself.
“Rigsby is very vocal,” McKeough said. “If she can’t see in front of the net, she will yell at us to move them. She’s not afraid to yell at us.”
It doesn’t appear Rigsby is afraid of much.
She wasn’t afraid of playing with the guys when in 2009 she was the first female ever selected by a USHL team.
She doesn’t appear to be phased by the big moments as her game gets better while the stakes get higher.
Rigsby has improved through every stage of the regular season. According to the freshman, she has gone into every practice with a different aspect of her game to improve upon and the results of the hard work have come on the ice.
If Johnson decides to go with Rigsby in the playoffs and the pregame jitters do finally reach the doorstep of her mind, in Johnson’s eyes, that’s just fine.
“It’s okay to be nervous, it’s okay to have butterflies. If you don’t then there is something wrong with you,” Johnson said.