In 2010, head coach Mark Johnson brought in a small recruiting class, but the influence of this class would be felt for its remaining time at Wisconsin.
In the end, the class would boast Wisconsin’s all-time winningest goaltender, a Patty Kazmaier finalist and multiple center pieces to one of the better power play and penalty kill units collegiate women’s hockey has seen this season. Although its talents on the ice will be missed come next season, the 2014 senior class on the Wisconsin women’s hockey team has left a lasting legacy with the current players and the university.
The class, which consists of Alex Rigsby, Madison Packer, Brittany Ammerman, Kelly Jaminski and Natalie Berg, started making an impact from the moment they stepped on campus. During their freshman year, the Badgers finished 37-2-2 including a 4-1 win over Boston University in the NCAA championship.
“I think if you look back to our freshman year, with that class we came in with, we had a great year with great leaders and we were able to win a title,” Ammerman said. “It’s an amazing feeling that not many people get to experience, and I want everyone on this [year's] team to have that experience and that’s the end goal [for this season].”
Rigsby started all but 10 games her freshman year, finishing with an impressive record of 27-1-2. Meanwhile, Packer and Ammerman tallied 26 and 25 points respectively their freshman year. Jaminski recorded 10 assists over the course of the season, including an assist on the opening goal in the National Championship game.
The next year, in 2011-2012, the class was older and once again made a huge impact on the team. Ammerman was the fifth-leading point scorer on the team while Jaminski, Packer and Berg all helped create opportunities, recording a combined 27 assists. Once again, the Badgers made it to the National Championship game. However, they fell 4-2 to rival Minnesota.
In their junior year, injury and the loss of a few key players put their season to an early end, as they were unable to make the NCAA tournament. Ammerman redshirted after a concussion early in the season, while Packer took the lead in the classes scoring, notching 18 goals and 19 assists, behind only the team’s leading scorer, then-senior Brianna Decker.
This season, the senior class took on more of a leadership role as well as their physical role on the ice. Ammerman is leading the team in points with 41, while Packer is third in points with 22. Meanwhile, Rigsby set the all-time record for wins for a goaltender, which now stands one short of 100, a win total only two other goaltenders in NCAA history have accomplished.
“[Rigsby would probably be more concerned] that we won the game than with the numbers,” Johnson said. “Then you get to play for a championship on Saturday. I think for a lot of players, those individual awards, especially at this time of the year, take a backseat to the most important thing, which is, ‘What can I do to help the team win?’”
Aside from the records, the senior class will also leave a lasting legacy with the younger players on the team. The leadership of the team has been instrumental throughout the season.
The class helped the team overcome adversity after tough losses to Minnesota both early and late in the year and aided the comeback after a disappointing loss to Minnesota State in the first round of the WCHA tournament last weekend.
“I think any time you spend a given amount of time with a group of people you want to be remembered for something,” Packer said. “Obviously, we want to leave on a winning note. To win a national championship with this group would be a good thing. But as far as a legacy, hopefully we’ve taught them a few things about being a leader and working hard.”
As the year winds down and the Badgers sit at No. 2 in the nation, the seniors are looking to finish how they started, with a National Championship.
“My freshman and sophomore year we made it all the way to the national championship game, so that’s always the goal, but that starts this weekend,” Packer said. “We played North Dakota, they beat us and our season was over. So the senior class still has that in the back of their minds.”
A tough road lies ahead for the seniors and the team as they attempt to win their second National Championship. Even if the Badgers do fall short of their fifth NCAA title, the senior class will have a continuing legacy with the program, the fans and the current players.