Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Women’s Hockey: Roller coaster season ends in ecstasy for Badgers

In season of ups, downs, Badgers cap it off with 7th NCAA title
Dane Sheehan

All year long, the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team faced doubters and adversity. They were never ranked number one in the country and they finished third place in their own conference. And yet, the season ended victoriously for Wisconsin as they hoisted the national championship trophy in the season’s final game.

The Badgers (29-10-2) capped off a tumultuous season by going on a magical run in the NCAA Tournament, defeating the top-3 seeds in reverse order on the way to winning their NCAA-leading seventh national championship at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minnesota. 

In doing so, the Badgers broke a tie with arch-rival Minnesota at the top of the list.


It was a rollercoaster of a season, defined by three main things.

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Adversity all season

The Badgers faced adversity dating all the way back to the offseason.

Two-thirds of UW’s fabulous top line from last season, Daryl Watts, Casey O’Brien and Makenna Webster, were gone as was All-American defender Grace Bowlby. Watts and Bowlby each were fifth-year seniors, but Webster’s departure was a bit more unexpected – she transferred out of UW to rival Ohio State.

Despite the shift, the roster was infused with a talent to try and replace the former Badgers and other departures like Brette Petet, Caitlin Schneider and Delaney Drake. 

With it not being an Olympic year, the Badgers were able to get back fifth-year senior defender Natalie Buchbinder and forwards Lacey Eden and Britta Curl. The three took the year away from the team to try to make the U.S. National Team. Eden, Buchbinder and Curl were joined by a deep and talented freshman class looking to make an instant impact on a team lacking in depth last year.

Next came the in-season adversity. A 4-1 opening day setback against Penn State on the first official game of the NCAA season. A five-game losing streak at the beginning of the 2023 calendar year. Losing at home in front of over 14,000 fans by a 1-0 score in the Fill the Bowl game. 

The biggest blow of all, though, was losing the alternate captain Buchbinder to a season-ending injury in warmups before a home game against Minnesota State.

Notwithstanding the roadblocks, the season had a distinct turning point. UW head coach Mark Johnson had “a good heart-to-heart talk” with the team before their penultimate regular season series at Minnesota.

“We’re capable of playing at a real high level,” Johnson said of the meeting. “We just got to figure out in this locker room what we want to do. Do you want to get on the same page? Do you want to be on the same boat pushing in the same direction? If you’re willing to do that, you have a chance.”

Message received.

The Badgers followed that up by taking five of six points from their rivals on the road in Ridder and then played two highly competitive games against Ohio State at home.

“We come away from that and the players get an understanding of what they’re capable of doing,” Johnson said. “They’re seeing it just like I’m seeing it and now they’re starting to buy into it a little bit more.”

The Badgers entered the postseason feeling good about themselves, but the adversity would continue. They were unseeded in the NCAA tournament and were forced to travel all the way to Hamilton, New York to play in the regional. That turned out to be a big mistake by the committee.

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Fabulous freshmen

How do you replace a duo with as many points as Watts (28-29-57) and Webster (23-30-53) had last year? For UW, it started with a phenomenal freshman class.

The headliner was the Olympian Caroline Harvey, but the class also featured Vivian Jungels, Laila Edwards, Claire Enright, Kirsten Simms and Chloe Baker. All but Baker, the third-string goaltender, would go on to win WCHA Rookie of the Week at least once. Their play was instrumental in turning what was UW’s biggest weakness last year into their biggest strength this year.

Harvey was UW’s only All-American of the season, named 2nd Team by the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). It was a season where she was the only Badger to receive any national honors — the cardinal and white had zero top-10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the first time since 2015. 

The freshmen alone combined for 52 goals and 82 assists, more than adequately making up for the points left by Webster and Watts.

And once the NCAA Tournament began, the freshmen were the story.

After dispatching Long Island in the first round, the Badgers’ underdog story began. Facing third-seeded Colgate, the Badgers dominated the game and outshot the Raiders 35-15 on the way to winning 4-2. Freshman Vivian Jungels scored the game-winning goal.

The Badgers’ first game in the Frozen Four was against Minnesota, a team they would be playing for the sixth time that year. After falling behind early, the Badgers responded with two quick goals in the third period but allowed the tying goal late. Once OT began, it seemed only fitting that another freshman scored the winner. This time, it was the All-American Caroline Harvey.

In the final, freshman Kirsten Simms scored the only goal in the championship game with the sole assist going to Claire Enright, another freshman.

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Couldn’t score on Cami

Simms may have had the only goal in that game, but this run does not happen without UW’s redshirt senior goaltender, Cami Kronish

Oftentimes that’s all it takes to win a title in hockey — a goalie getting hot at the right time — and that’s exactly what Kronish did.

Kronish is a member of an exclusive club of Badgers to win three national championships.

Kronish entered this season with just 12 career games played and even began the year as part of a tandem with Jane Gervais. But once Gervais got hurt in the opening few minutes of UW’s second game against Minnesota Nov. 20, she took the starting role and ran with it.

She stopped 82 of 87 shots in the NCAA Tournament, including all 31 she saw in the title game. She also accomplished something no other player had done all year–shut out Ohio State.

“I’m just so happy for Cami,” Johnson said following the championship. “She spent a lot of time watching, improving, getting better and when she got on the big stage, she showed everyone that through hard work, determination, and waiting for her opportunity, good things can happen.”

Her four-year wait to start ended with being named to the NCAA all-tournament team and the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player. She capped off the season with her eighth shutout of the year, too.

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