The Wisconsin women’s hockey team will face its first test of the 2019 season this weekend as they travel to Maryland Heights, Missouri, to face the Lindenwood Lions.
The Badgers are coming off a historic year during which the team captured their fifth NCAA National Championship victory after amassing an overall record of 35-4-2 and defeating the No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Frozen Four tournament. Now the unit hopes to defend their national title as this fresh season begins against a familiar opponent.
Wisconsin and Lindenwood have faced off a total of eight times since 2012 with the Badgers defeating the Lions in all of these regular season matchups. The two teams last faced off Sept. 29, 2018. The game ended favorably for the Badgers with a final scoreline of 6–0.
In a press conference Monday, Sept. 23, Badgers Head Coach Mark Johnson held high praise for his team’s performances in preseason activities and practices.
“What I’ve seen on the ice I’m very impressed with,” Johnson said. “The kids have certainly refocused and put their thoughts and energy into what they can do to become better players.”
Even with the obvious excitement that comes following a national title, the Badgers were focused on self improvement throughout the off season.
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When asked how the team managed celebrating their tremendous accomplishments of 2018 while also preparing for the upcoming season, Johnson was melancholy in his response, stating he feels the coaches could have celebrated more than they did.
“From a coaching standpoint, usually what ends up happening is you win something like we did last spring and within a day or two you are trying to figure out what the summer is going to look like, and how you are going to prepare for next year,” Johnson said. “We probably don’t take enough time to enjoy some of the successes that we have as coaches, but that is just a part of the business we are in, you are always looking at what’s next.”
Johnson reiterated his belief in his squad when asked about the significant holes left by players who have since moved on after the team’s 2018-2019 season. One player he highlighted who can help to step in and raise the team’s level of play is junior transfer from Boston College, Daryl Watts.
“Every day she’s gotten better, she’s got a big smile on her face, she’s happy,” Johnson said. “Her skill level will be seen quite quickly, and I’m excited to continue to work with her.”
In her two years at Boston College, Watts produced at a very high level, scoring 130 points on 16% of her shots and amassing 66 assists as well as being named the first-ever underclassmen to win the Patty Kazmaier Award — the women’s hockey equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
Watts and other Wisconsin players’ experience and skills will be put to the test as the Badgers embark on their season-long journey to once again reach the top of the women’s college hockey world.
Puck drop against Lindenwood is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. (CT). The game can be followed live on twitter @BadgerWHockey.