With a dominating sweep of No. 9 St. Cloud State this weekend, the Wisconsin women?s hockey team extended its winning streak to eight games.
By starting the second half of the season on an eight-game winning streak, the Badgers have fallen into a pattern that bodes well for their national title hopes. In the 2005-06 season, UW went 21-2 during the second semester of school on their way to their first of back-to-back national championships. In the 2006-07 season, UW was undefeated in their last 21 games on their way to championship No. 2.
After suffering through a rough seven-game stretch in November during which the Badgers went 1-5-1, UW has found its stride once again and has started the second semester with an eight-game winning streak, just like the previous two National Championship teams.
?Anytime when you have a group that starts in September, especially a younger group, it is going to take time for them to develop and understand what roles are going to be needed,? head coach Mark Johnson said. ?The end result, however, is by the time you get to January a lot of those things come together. The past three or four years we have been able to do that very successfully.?
?I don?t think we really improve from semester to semester. I just think it takes time to get used to one another,? senior Jinelle Zaugg added. ?We have taken strides to become united as a team, and that has led to our success.?
Part of the reason it has taken UW a few months to gain successful team chemistry is the infusion of six freshmen. This weekend, four of the eight Badger goals were scored by freshmen, and the team believes that the struggles they went through earlier in the season will benefit the newcomers down the stretch.
?They are all very talented,? Zaugg said of the freshmen. ?And they have all stepped up to the place we expected them to. They are great kids.?
?It is all a part of the growing process,? Johnson continued. ?They have to have both some successes and failures. Over the course of all that, they are going to become better players, and we have seen that progress this season.?
As the team?s chemistry and confidence have risen, so has the offensive production. During their eight-game winning streak, the Badgers have averaged 3.6 goals per game and have scored at least three goals in each contest.
?Part of it is confidence, and part of it is people accepting where they are in the pecking order,? Johnson said. ?That is usually the biggest hurdle we face as coaches because everyone wants to be a big part of the play and unfortunately we can?t have that. Once players accept that, we start to have some success.?
?We are playing more confidently,? freshman Hilary Knight added. ?We are being more aggressive with the puck. We just want to jump on them first and play a whole game. Earlier in the year we were only playing one or two periods, but now we are playing a full game.?