Coming off of their ninth Frozen Four appearance, high expectations are nothing new for the Wisconsin women’s hockey team and head coach Mark Johnson. In fact, they embrace them.
“I don’t mind having high expectations,” Johnson said. “I think that it’s good; it keeps everyone sharp, it keeps everyone focused.”
The Badgers were awarded the No. 1 ranking by USCHO.com this week, based off the expectations which are due in large part to healthy portion of their starting lineup returning, including star goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens.
During her junior campaign she recorded a save percentage of .960, an impressive 21 consecutive shutouts, and allowed for less than one goal per game. She was named both a First-Team All-American and the WCHA Player of the year.
“I think in her positions you can’t live on your laurels,” Johnson said. “Our message to Ann-Renée … is do the things day to day and focus. In 36 games and in six months her career here at Wisconsin will be over, and she has an opportunity to do something special.”
Originally from La Malbaie Quebec, the senior standout has faced challenges on and off the ice since coming to Madison. Moving to a completely foreign land was tough for Desbiens as she not only had to say goodbye to her family and friends back home, but to her native language, French, as well.
Johnson recalled one of the unique and intriguing aspects of convincing the now-star goalie that Madison was the place for her.
“I remember sitting in a restaurant in northern Quebec and having dinner with her mother and her,” Johnson said. “Both parents speak zero English and AnnRenée, who at the time had only spoken English for about year and a half, translated our entire conversation. She’s extremely intelligent. She’s very smart, and if she wanted to she probably could have graduated in three years.”
There isn’t much of a barrier between Desbiens and English speakers now, but she does enjoy the occasional conversation in her native tongue. But despite how Johnson feels about her scholarly abilities, she returns for a highly anticipated fourth season after being named the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year.
Desbiens has the potential to again shatter numerous records as she eyes both the school’s and NCAA’s shut out records.
“She still has some goals here at Wisconsin, and some goals she wants to obtain as an individual player,” Johnson said.
After winning their past six season openers, Desbeins and the Badgers will look to expand on this streak come Friday as they visit the St. Cloud State Huskies.
“Our goaltender is back coming off a phenomenal season last year,” Johnson said. “So on paper we look pretty good, but we still have to play the games.”