When looking to give an example of a sports dynasty, University of Wisconsin fans have to look no further than the Wisconsin women’s hockey team. In their 13 seasons, the Badgers have four national championships, six championship game appearances and seven NCAA Tournament appearances.
The team capped off last season with a loss in the National Championship game. As a result, the team was ranked second in the polls early this season. Needless to say, expectations for the team coming into the season were high. However, Wisconsin has had a few hiccups along the way.
Currently,the Badgers are ranked eighth in the nation coming off two devastating losses to undefeated Minnesota and hold a 15-9-2 record. At the moment, they are looking down the barrel at a 10-loss season for the first time since 2009.
Instead of getting down on themselves, the players have decided to keep working hard, polish up a few things and gain momentum before the postseason begins in a few weeks.
“We need to win every game from here on out,” junior captain Alex Rigsby said. “We have had some games we haven’t won where we should have won, but that’s part of the sport and you have to grow from it.”
That notion of learning from mistakes and moving on permeates the Badgers’ ideology. Despite not having a phenomenal record, as they have the past few years, the Badgers still keep confidence.
“We have come together as a team,” Rigsby said. “We continue to improve as we go along.”
Losses have somewhat lost their sting in this year of disappointing performances. The Badgers have brushed the losses aside and continue to push forward and improve in an attempt to make a postseason run.
“We keep working hard and I think that’s what’s most important,” senior captain Brianna Decker said.
As tends to happen throughout a season, the major issues have been ironed out. The Wisconsin women’s hockey team is no different. The problems of the early season have been balanced, and now the team is focusing on polishing up their game in order to be at their best going into the postseason.
While Rigsby pushes for a combined-effort approach with all players playing their best, coach Mark Johnson looks to reduce the number of small errors made by the team going into the playoffs.
“At this point it is about competing and trying to eliminate mistakes and missed opportunities,” Johnson said. “You do those things and you have better chances to win.”
After being swept at home, the Badgers look to bounce back this weekend at St. Cloud State, whom they handled easily in late November, skating to 6-3 and 6-0 wins. They then take on No. 10 Minnesota-Duluth in their last home series of the season. The team finishes off the 2012-2013 regular season campaign at Bemidji State, a team that dealt the Badgers a loss early in the season.
The players and coaching staff emphasized the importance of coming out of these games strong.
“It’s extremely important,” Johnson said. “It’s the timing factor; you want to be playing your best hockey those last three weeks.”
Despite a tough schedule these last three weeks, Johnson has confidence in his team’s ability to go into the postseason with a six-game win streak.
“All indications say we are in position,” Johnson said. “We have physical strength. The attitudes are there and that confidence is showing up on the ice.”
Some Badger players found the silver lining of their early season struggles. The usually dominant Wisconsin women’s hockey program has fallen back into the pack a bit, taking the target off their back and transferring it to undefeated boarder rival Minnesota.
“It would be nice to play [Minnesota] tough and come out with a nice win,” Decker expressed.
One thing is for certain: the Wisconsin Badgers will not be playing in their usual one-seed position this year. Despite the team not being used to the underdog position, they still have confidence. And if the past tells us anything, a confident underdog is a scary underdog.