Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


High-powered Badgers still reliant on defense

Wisconsin defenseman Geena Prough has made sure that, while the Badgers’ offensive production has stolen the headlines, their defense has managed to excell as the conference’s third-ranked unit.[/media-credit]

It’s no secret. The Wisconsin women’s hockey team can light the lamp almost at will. The Badgers possess the type of firepower that can leave opposing goaltenders helpless and defeated, and then, for good measure, will put four additional goals past them.

The Badgers have scored almost 50 more goals than anyone in the WCHA this season while averaging 1.5 more per game.

However, even with the offensive production the team is capable of creating, if the Badgers want to end their season with a championship trophy hoisted high above their heads, it is likely the defense that will have to take them there.


Thus far in the 2010-2011 campaign, the offense has overshadowed a solid effort put together by the young core of defensemen. At the moment, Wisconsin finds itself ranked third in the WCHA allowing 1.91 goals per game and third in total goals allowed with 42.

However, to the Badgers, third in the conference isn’t sufficient, and there is always room for improvement.

“I think we can always work on our [defensive] zone. I think our forwards are very talented and they are able to score, but we can’t go into the offensive zone without starting in our zone,” senior defenseman Geena Prough said.

The defensemen, however, are only a few of the pieces that make up the defensive-puzzle. The other components are the forwards, who must back-check into their own zone to help out and the goaltenders who are the true last line of defense.

In baseball, the saying goes that a streaking club is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher. Goaltenders fall under the same, though hockey-flavored, adage. A hot goaltender can render the most productive offenses innocuous.

Freshman goaltender Alex Rigsby understands the importance of her position well.

“Like everyone says, it starts with the goaltender,” Rigsby said.

After a shaky beginning to the season, Rigsby has settled into her role and is now, statistically, one of the top ranked goaltenders in the WCHA, a conference that boasts some of the best net minders in the land. Currently, the freshman’s save percentage sits at .914 with a goals-per-game average of 2.09, both good for 5th in the conference.

Though the young goaltender’s play may have improved, Rigsby and her counterpart, sophomore Becca Ruegsegger, still need support to secure the defensive zone.

The first wave of help comes from the defensemen.

Rigsby has a lot of confidence in the group that sits towards the top of all WCHA statistical defensive categories.

“I feel so comfortable with them. If there is a rebound, I know that they are going to be there to clear it or pick up that odd man. The defense is doing a great job,” Rigsby said.

Wisconsin’s forwards have done a great job as well, and not just in the goal scoring department. A successful defensive unit needs every player to work together in her own zone in order to move the puck up the ice.

The Badgers forwards have made a concerted effort to back-check, a tactic that pays dividends on more than just defense.

“Your goals aren’t going to start in the offensive zone. They are going to start in the defensive zone off of a good transition game. If [the forwards] aren’t down in the corners helping us out, then we can’t get the puck out to them for them to go down and score that nice goal,” sophomore defenseman Stefanie McKeough said.

The final phase of the defense that the Badgers hope to improve is the penalty kill. At the outset of the season, Wisconsin took a lot of bad penalties, forcing them into some adverse situations.

But, even though the Badgers desire to stay out of the penalty box, they know that some penalties are unavoidable. When they find themselves in odd man situations, they need to stick to what they have worked on in practice.

“After that one Ohio State weekend we had when they scored about four power play goals on us, I think it was kind of a wake up call that we really needed to be disciplined with taking less penalties. I think we just need to be disciplined within the kill and stick to our system against each team,” McKeough said.

No matter how many goals the team has scored thus far, with the talent the WCHA has between the pipes, it is possible that Wisconsin might have nights when it will struggle to find the back of the net.

But, if the defense can continue to play hard and play well, they should be just fine.

“It’s fun to score goals; it’s work to play in your own end. So as you get down and the pressure starts to build it becomes, ‘How are you going to win?’ The teams in the past are usually successful when they are playing well in their own end,” Johnson said.

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