Already with a gold medal and an NCAA championship under her belt, Wisconsin goaltender Alex Rigsby led the nation in saves last year with 1044.[/media-credit]

Since she was six years old, Alex Rigsby has been suiting up in 20 extra pounds of gear.

And up until her first year in college, she has used that gear to stop shots from the sticks of men’s hockey teams.

Rigsby, the starting goaltender for the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team, has been a mainstay between the pipes during her three years in Madison, and that is just how she likes it.

The UW junior said she fell in love with the position the first time she tried it and has wanted to play there ever since.

“In my first year of hockey, when I was six years old, we went around and we all got to rotate and play goalie,” Rigsby said. “As soon as I got to play goalie I was hooked. The next couple of years I kept asking to play goalie and finally I was able to get the opportunity. I really loved the position right from the start.”

Rigsby then went on to play boys’ hockey and joined the AAA boys’ hockey team at the age of 10.

In 2009, the Chicago Steel drafted Rigsby into the United State Hockey League, making her the first female ever drafted into the league.

She then went on to play for the U.S. on the U18 women’s hockey team, where she won the gold medal at the World Ice Hockey Championships.

The Delafield native was then recruited by Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson.

Johnson said it was an easy decision to go after Rigsby.

“She was playing in AAA midget hockey with boys and certainly if she can handle herself at that level against those type of shots, she catches your eye,” Johnson said. “It worked out being a local kid from the state of Wisconsin and [UW] sort of fit in nice where she can come in and do some of the things that she wanted to do.”

It didn’t take long before Rigsby made an impact on the Wisconsin team, starting 31 games in her freshman season, ending up with a record of 27-1-2 and 7 shutouts, a mark good enough for third in the country.

The Badgers would go on to win the NCAA championship with Rigsby tending the net.

In her sophomore season, Rigsby ended up leading the nation in saves with 1,044.

With the goaltender now in her third year, senior defensman Saige Pacholok said Rigsby brings a lot to the team on and off the ice.

“I think right now [Rigsby] brings a lot of experience,” Pacholok said. “She brings a lot of leadership too. I think being one of our goalies that has played consistently in every game for three years now has been really good for her. She brings a lot of energy too. She is kind of goofy in the dressing room and her hair is kind of crazy, so I think energy is a big thing too.”

Rigsby said she is happy her team believes in her, and she is able to be a leader.

“Now I have become more of a leader of the team,” Rigsby said. “It’s nice knowing that the girls have confidence in me and I have confidence in my defensemen and my forwards. It’s just a good healthy relationship between all of the positions on the ice.”

Rigsby has gotten her 2012-2013 campaign off to a good start, allowing only 15 goals in 10 games, and is currently coming off of a shutout last Sunday against New Hampshire.

The Wisconsin goaltender was also honored with the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week award for her performance last weekend at home.

Johnson said he is happy to have such a consistent goaltender in his team’s net and knows what she can do for the team.

“It’s a hard position; it’s probably one of the most difficult positions in all of sports and she has excelled at it,” Johnson said. “She gives us a chance to win every night. That’s what you ask of your goaltenders. She’s been able to do that for two and a quarter seasons now. Most of the games she’s been in, we’ve had a chance to win because she’s been able to stop pucks.”

Being a junior, Rigsby will have two more shots at winning another NCAA championship for her school. After graduation, Rigsby has aspirations to win a medal for her country.

“[If I play hockey after college] all depends on what happens with making the national team,” Rigsby said. “One of my goals is to someday play in the Olympics, so hopefully that can happen.”