The Wisconsin women’s hockey team finished off the first half of their season this weekend when Bemidji State came to town. The Badgers dominated the Beavers 7-2 and 5-0 in the two games, respectively. Much of the weekend success was due to the play of senior forward Madison Packer.
Packer tallied the team’s first hat trick of the season, and first in LaBahn Arena history, on Friday night and managed to match the three points with two assists and a goal Sunday afternoon.
“Well, she’s like a lot of people,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “Kids that have the ability to put points up, if you’re doing that, again, if you get to three, four or five, your chances of winning are pretty good. She had two good games, had a good weekend, so hopefully we can continue that as we start out the second half in early January.”
Packer will go down in history in the UW women’s hockey program. The four-year started is tied for 20th for all-time points at the moment and is on track to be in the top 15 by the time she graduates next year. She made an immediate impact her freshman year, notching 13 goals and 13 assists in her 38 games. Packer saw a slight sophomore slump finishing her second year with the Badgers with only four goals and 14 assists. As a junior, Packer scored 18 goals and 19 assists, putting her behind only Brianna Decker who scored the third most points in a season in school history last year.
Packer started the 2013-2014 season slowly notching only five goals in 16 games. She has begun to come to life in recent games and won the WCHA offensive player of the week honor after her performance against Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, recording two assists and a goal in that series against the Bulldogs. The senior captain continued her success this weekend against Bemidji State.
On Friday night, Packer put three goals in the net helping clinch the win for the Badgers. The game was the first time this year Packer has scored multiple goals, and the crowd, and her team treated her with a standing ovation and excitement.
“It was sort of a breakout day for [Packer],” Johnson said. “In the back of her mind she thought she’d probably have a lot more goals and more assists up to this point in the season. It’s nice to see her come out and do some of the little things to give herself an opportunity to score.”
Packer continued her success on Sunday afternoon. The scoring began for the Badgers 13 minutes into the game on the power play when the puck raddled around in front of Bemidji goaltender Jessica Havel. The goal was initially awarded to Packer but given to Sarah Nurse after a further look. However, Packer still recorded an assist on the play.
“It didn’t look like a very pretty power play the first minute or whatever of it,” Johnson said. “In fact, it looked pretty ugly, but all of a sudden you get the puck in the offensive zone and you get pucks to the net and it gets tipped and all of a sudden you get a power play goal.”
Packer scored again halfway through the second period taking a rocket of a shot that bounced off the crossbar and into the net. Because the first goal was originally credited to Packer, she was under the impression that she was just one goal away from having back-to-back hat tricks.
15 minutes into the third period Courtney Burke played the puck long to Packer who found herself with a two-on-one with Kaitlyn Harding to her right.
“It was a two-on-one I think with some people coming back,” Packer said. “I was thinking in my head `If I shoot I can score and have another hat trick,’ but Harding was wide open. It was a good play, she went hard to the net and scored.”
Packer’s teamwork on this play really embodies how she views the entire weekend.
“It’s all one my teammates. If you actually watched those games it could have been anyone out their scoring those goals.”
Packer did however give a reason for why she has been so successful recently.
“Courtney (Burke) sees the ice so well and four of the six points I have this weekend, her name is attached to them, too. She’s seeing the ice well and I love playing with her. She’s moving me the puck and everyone’s moving well, getting open and that’s all a part of it.”
Burke, a sophomore, is first on the team in assists this season tallying nine before this weekend’s matchup with Bemidji and then another five in this weekend’s games bringing her total to 14 on the season.
Even though Packer attributes her recent success to her teammates, fans will not ignore four goals and two assists in four games and neither will the voters when it comes to the WCHA weekly honors this week. Each time Packer tallied another point on Sunday the crowd erupted, knowing each point just added to her electric weekend on the ice.
“I think that fans don’t always know hockey, they sometimes cheer for the wrong reason,” Packer said. “I think they were cheering because I had a lot of points, so it’s good, it’s good to create energy in our own building no matter how it’s happening. But hopefully with our home stretch in the second half of the year we can get them cheering for a few other people too.”
Though Packer hopes that her teammates may get more recognition in the future, this weekend belongs to Madison Packer and her four goals and two assists.