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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hockey: Rebound necessary for Badgers’ squads after recent tough stretches

Analyzing what will need to transpire for UW’s squads to reclaim their puck prowess
Julien Payen

Getting to the top was easy. Staying there is the hard part.

That’s a fact both University of Wisconsin hockey teams have learned recently. Each of them had stints as the No. 1 team in the nation earlier this season. Neither is still there after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The path to the top taken by each team was different. The women, the defending national champions, really didn’t need one. They entered the season as the undisputed No. 1 team in the nation — a ranking they consolidated with an undefeated start until a series against now-No. 1 Ohio State.


The men got off to a start no one could have imagined, sweeping Big Ten favorites Minnesota and Michigan in consecutive weeks as part of a meteoric, five-week rise from unranked to top dog.

Then the adversity struck.

A 1-2 battle without all the luster

Ahead of a big series versus then-No. 2 Ohio State, head coach Mark Johnson said he would learn a lot about his Badgers (12-2-0, 8-2-0 WCHA).

“We’re going to have information about our team [after the series],” Johnson said. “Whether that’s the goaltending, the defenseman, the power play, the penalty kill, all the different areas that we work on, we’re going to have a better idea because going into Columbus is one of the toughest places to play nowadays.”

The fact that Columbus is a hard place to play is one UW knew already. After all, they haven’t won there since 2020. That fact didn’t change after this past series. The Buckeyes swept Wisconsin, winning game one by a convincing 3-0 score and snatching a 2-1 overtime victory in the second game.

But, if you’re Wisconsin and Mark Johnson, how much can you actually take away from that series? The Badgers were missing superstar defender Caroline Harvey, who suffered a knee injury against Bemidji State Oct. 21 and hasn’t played since. Minnesota State transfer Anna Wilgren played, but wasn’t 100%. Leading scorer Kirsten Simms missed the second game of the series with an injury.

These are injuries this team simply can’t afford to have. Simms’ injury gave UW only nine healthy forwards of the 12 that UW rosters — Bella Vasseur and Claire Enright have yet to suit up this year due to injuries. As a result, the Badgers have used defenders Katie Kotlowski and Sophie Helgeson up front. The depth in terms of usable bodies is a real concern.

The good news is Harvey will be back soon and last week’s bye hopefully gave other banged up players, like Simms and Wilgren, chances to fully recover. As for Vasseur and Enright, their status is more up in the air.

Another positive from the Ohio State series? The outstanding play of freshman goalkeeper Ava McNaughton. She stopped 32 of 34 shots in game two and has proven deserving of the full-time starting role. She’s split duties with the incumbent Jane Gervais so far, but Johnson usually likes to have a set goalie by the new year. We’ll see if that will be McNaughton moving forward.

The Ohio State series was just the beginning of a real tough stretch for UW. No. 6 Minnesota Duluth is up next the first weekend of December at LaBahn Arena before a trip to take on No. 3 Minnesota.

Johnson will have plenty more opportunities to learn very soon.

Women’s Hockey: Wisconsin suffers first setback of the season, swept in Columbus

Consistency will be key

On the other hand, being number one was a new feeling for many in the locker room for the Badger men (10-4-0, 4-2-0 Big Ten). Ahead of a series against an ascending Michigan State team, their first (and only) as the top team, they said all the right things.

“We’re at this point because of the work we put in so nothing changes just because we’re number one,” UW forward David Silye said. “We’re just enjoying each other and enjoying the team and going through our process.”

But once the series started, the team felt overmatched during a humbling sweep at the hands of the Spartans, losing 4-2 in game one and 3-2 in game two in East Lansing.

To make matters worse, the two-game skid became three in a shocking 1-0 loss over the Thanksgiving weekend versus Alaska Anchorage.

The caveat is that for none of the three losses was UW at full strength. Leading goal scorer Cruz Lucius and captain Mike Vorlicky missed the series against Michigan State and leading point scorer Mathieu De St. Phalle missed the Anchorage series.

Missing a top-line scorer is tough, but the offense looked as lost as it has in recent memory without them. A team should not be that reliant on a full strength lineup to score goals with the inevitability that injuries will happen throughout the season.

Head coach Mike Hastings warned everyone this would happen. He emphasized the team’s peaks and valleys in a season and how the team would respond to the inevitable valleys all year long. The start’s been great, but at the first glimpse of adversity, the team’s response will be important.

The Badgers did bounce back nicely in game two against the Seawolves, scoring five and posting a shutout in the first game of freshman goalkeeper William Gramme’s UW career.

This upcoming stretch of games is big for Wisconsin to grab some points in the Big Ten standings and gain ground on Michigan State. Ohio State and Penn State come to the Kohl Center in the next two weeks and the two teams have combined for one regulation or overtime win in conference play so far.

Madison is a hockey town again

One thing is for sure — the coaches are very happy that both teams are enjoying success to begin the season.

“It creates a lot of energy around Madison and the community with hockey whether it’s the women’s program or the men’s program,” Johnson said. “It’s a good space for us to be in.”

As Johnson said, even with the recent setbacks, each program’s start has infused an energy in Madison. LaBahn Arena is no longer the only hockey venue in town pushing sellout status. The Kohl Center is rocking again. And the fans still have visions and dreams that come April, they’ll be able to party like it’s 2006.

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