With a 3-1 home victory over Minnesota-Duluth on Oct. 14, head coach Mark Johnson officially entered the record books as the winningest women’s hockey coach in NCAA history with 465 wins.
Coach Johnson has undoubtedly enjoyed the most successful tenure in the history of Badger hockey, amassing not only an unprecedented number of wins but also four national titles and 12 frozen four appearances during his 16 years as head coach.
This consistent appearance at the nation’s most competitive tournament has only heightened as of late, as the Badgers have appeared in seven of the last eight installments of the NCAA tournament.
Most importantly, however, Johnson has directed the development of the most successful individual performers the team has ever witnessed. Since Johnson took over the reins in Madison, he has coached all 10 of the program’s leaders in total point scoring.
Furthermore, he has directly recruited eight of those 10 players. The ability to bring in and develop the best of the best individual prospects is fundamental in cultivating a successful team — Johnson has and continues to perform this to perfection.
Stand out freshman Sophie Shirley, a Johnson recruit, experienced his ability to develop and improve his players for the first time this year.
“Coach Johnson has been great thus far,” Shirley said.“Everything he says you want to swallow it up and take as much knowledge in as you can. We really respect him as a coach.”
It is without question that Johnson’s unique abilities as a coach directly brought about the continued success of the women’s hockey program. While past regimes were no strangers to victory, Johnson has effectively ushered in a new era of dominance that remains unrivaled by any other Badger sport.
Johnson was no stranger to success prior to accepting the role as head coach, as his own hockey career was defined by stunning success, including a myriad of accomplishments with the Badgers.
In the 1970s, under Bob Johnson, Mark’s father, he won WCHA rookie of the year for the first time in Badger history, took part in a national title-winning team and became the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Perhaps most famously, Johnson scored two of the four goals during the miracle on ice that saw an amateur U.S. team take down the seemingly invincible Soviet Union.
This set of accomplishments would certainly allow for one to rest on their laurels, however, coach Johnson had other plans in mind.
“I’ve had my day in the sun playing and coached a long time. This is about giving back to the game and helping others, helping out the players we’re working with right now,” Johnson said per University of Wisconsin Communications.
While his days as a player may be finished, coach Johnson’s potential victories are anything but limited. At just 61 years of age, Johnson has a chance to build up his record of success with the Badgers. While he’s made it clear that the players are his absolute focus, another university record looms in the near distance.
After a flurry of recent wins against University of Minnesota-Duluth and Princeton, Johnson is only 31 games behind former men’s hockey coach Jeff Sauer for the most wins in school history in any sport.
Hypothetically, Johnson could achieve this milestone this season.
Between 26 regular season games and six potential combined playoff games in the WCHA and frozen four tournaments, the Badgers could acquire 32 wins before the year is complete. This is highly unlikely, however, and it’s probable coach Johnson will continue to pursue his record-breaking career next season.
It’s clear that the lasting success of the Badgers under coach Johnson has been enjoyable. In a post-game presser with UW Athletic’s Andy Baggot, Johnson described that he has “… had a lot of good people and certainly had a lot of good players and some great teams. It’s been a fun ride.”
This successful ride shows no sign of stopping, as the No. 1 ranked Badgers have continued their dominance to start their 2018-19 campaign for a national title.
It remains to be seen what this year ultimately holds in store for the Badgers, but expectations are undoubtedly high for Johnson and his squad.
Despite their past achievements, a recently attained No. 1 ranking in the nation and an extensive win streak mean that a national title would be the only way the Badgers and Johnson could completely fulfill their potential as a dominant force in the hockey world.