The Badgers were robbed, simple as that. Throughout the entire history of sport, teams and their fans have claimed that referees, cheating or even weather conditions have been the reason behind their own misfortunes. With COVID-19, the Badgers have undoubtedly the rarest of reasons to feel cheated. Yet, there is one player in particular that got robbed of a chance to yet again make history for the Badgers and forge her mark on all of collegiate hockey — senior goalkeeper Kristen Campbell.
During their fiery march towards the 2019 NCAA title, Campbell put up a brick wall in front of goal the likes of which are rarely seen when repeatedly facing off against such talented competition.
In fact, Campbell managed to record a shutout in every single competition during the 2019 NCAA tournament, including the Frozen Four. Perhaps even more impressive than the feat itself is the sheer volume of shots that Campbell faced while locking down each and every opposing offensive squad.
Over the course of three games — in all of which she went the full 60 minutes in net — against Syracuse, Clarkson and Minnesota, Campbell faced 15, 16 and 27 shots on goal, respectively. During the tournament, Campbell saved an astounding 58 total shots on goal in a row.
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To give some comparison, there was one other stretch in the 2018-2019 season that the Badgers recorded three straight shutouts. These games included one contest against Minnesota State and a two-game series against Bemidji State, both of whom failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament in either 2019 or 2020.
During the first game against Minnesota State, Campbell faced just 15 shots. In the entire series against Bemidji State, Campbell faced a total of 27 shots. That adds up to a full 16 shots less than what Campbell faced during the 2020 tournament and also means she faced an equal amount of shots in the NCAA finals against Minnesota as the entire Bemidji State series in 2019.
Despite facing the best offensive talent the country could offer, Campbell rose to the occasion and delivered crucial performance after crucial performance on the biggest stage of college hockey.
For these achievements, Campbell received the MVP of the NCAA national championship game. On top of her leading performances in the season’s final tournament, Campbell managed to accrue a statline that made Badger history.
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Campbell’s stunning 94% save rate carried her to a season record of 35-4-2, ultimately giving her the record for most single-season wins in Badger goalkeeping history. As if this wasn’t enough already, Campbell also dominated on the national stage. She finished the 2018-2019 season at first in the nation in goals against average, wins and shutouts with 1.03, 35 and 11, respectively.
Yet, when it mattered most, Campbell came through for the Badgers. She served as the effective axis mundi for a team chock-full of Olympic and professional level talent. Even as other performances, namely Annie Pankowski’s five goal output in that same three game stretch in the 2019 NCAA tournament, might have temporarily nabbed the spotlight, Campbell was creating a resume for the ages.
It began with her massive transformation from a backup goalie at the University North Dakota to the primary goalie for the Badgers. It culminated in what is undoubtedly the best stretch of performances in her career and an eventual national title.
It’s tough to discuss what losing a sporting event could possibly mean in the face of thousands of deaths around the world, but a life’s work is nothing to be tossed to the side. That’s what Campbell and the rest of the senior Badgers missed out on in March — a chance to once again receive fulfillment for their years of unceasing effort.
There is certainly no guarantee that Campbell would have been capable of repeating her 2019 performance against yet another round of the nation’s best competitors or that the Badgers would have even made this year’s championship game. But all they ever asked for was the chance to prove themselves.
Campbell’s story is exemplary of what all seniors robbed of their final chance to compete underwent at the hands of a force completely out of their own control. What separates Campbell and the majority of others like her, is the chance to repeat what is arguably the greatest tournament goalkeeping performance college hockey has ever seen.