Towards the end of the year many hockey clubs like to choose one goaltender and try to ride them for as long as they can through the playoffs. For Wisconsin this season, it is unclear if either goaltender will provide that stability in the crease.
Both of UW’s goaltenders have played well thus far, but it doesn’t appear that sophomore and freshman goaltenders Becca Ruegsegger and Alex Rigsby are making the decision any easier on head coach Mark Johnson.
And for the two friends and competitive teammates, that’s just fine.
“I definitely think we support each other no matter what. Good game, bad game, rough game, whatever. She’s not only my goalie partner, but she’s my friend too,” Ruegsegger said.
The Rigsby and Ruegsegger tandem has produced an 8-0 start with three shut-outs so far this season.
The competition between the two netminders has been positive, and a special relationship has blossomed between them.
“It’s fun because we both challenge each other, but we also support each other at the same time. It’s a good aspect to have on a team,” Ruegsegger said.
Individually, however, the girls come into this season from two different places.
The freshman, Rigsby, is charged with the task of learning the speed of Division-I hockey while on the job. Rigsby is also coming off an injury that kept her out of the rink for the majority of the summer, which has made the transition difficult.
However, one experience that has helped the young netminder is the time she spent in the USHL, as she was the first female ever drafted into the league.
“The guys there, they’re just so talented. They are obviously bigger, and they can shoot the puck. It’s just a different type of game,” Rigsby said.
But playing with the guys isn’t the only reason Rigsby has had success this season. The freshman knows what parts of her game need improvement, and she isn’t averse to spending time working on them.
“Every practice I go out there with something that I know I need to improve on,” Rigsby said.
Rigsby has also found success by looking to her counterpart Ruegsegger for council.
“She’s so supportive, if you have any questions you can go to her, and she just helps you out so much,” Rigsby said.
Ruegsegger, on the other hand, is playing in her second season for the Badgers. Last year the sophomore goaltender posted a record of 9-7-3 with a .907 save percentage.
And she also understands that there is always room to improve. The sophomore believes that a year of experience under her belt has made a huge difference in her game.
“It’s good to kind of know who your opponents are, and you’ve played them before so you kind of know what to expect. You’ve gone on the road; you know the routine,” Ruegsegger said.
To head coach Mark Johnson, the difference in her game is apparent. Johnson’s discussions about Ruegsegger with assistant coaches Tracey DeKeyser and Jackie Friesen have revolved around how much more comfortable and patient she has become.
Junior winger Carolyne Prevost has noticed the difference in Ruegsegger’s game as well.
“She’s had two shut outs this year, and that’s great for her. It’s a good start to the season. She’s also stepped up when she needed to and done what she’s needed to do to get us the wins,” Prevost said.
But while both goalies have played well thus far, the reality is that by the end of the season it is likely that Johnson and his staff will make the decision to go with one or the other.
Luckily for Johnson, there is no hurry to make that decision. However, the Badgers are now set to go on the road for two consecutive series, and Johnson believes that road trip is a good time to begin the evaluation.
“How they play in front of those type of atmospheres gives you a better picture of how they can handle a playoff game. Playing in the comforts of your home and sleeping in your own bed all the time is one thing, but now you’ve got to get on the bus, or on the plane, and fly and be tired and be banged up a little bit,” Johnson said.
Right now competing for the postseason starting job is the last thing on the two goaltenders’ minds. At this point, all Ruegsegger can do is worry about the present.
“We’ll see. I think it’s different every year with different goalies and different coaches, so honestly I am not really sure. We’ll just take it one game at a time,” Ruegsegger said.