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Replenished women’s hockey opens season vs. RPI

first_imgThe Badgers, with head coach Mark Johnson and 2 Olympians back in the fold, hope to improve.[/media-credit]With head coach Mark Johnson, senior forward Megan Duggan and junior forward Hilary Knight returning to the team after a year at the Olympics, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team is finally back together and hoping to get back to their winning ways.Last season Wisconsin had what could be called an off year. Missing its head coach and two offensive leaders, the Badgers played to a 18-15-3 record. After fighting all the way into the national championship the previous four seasons, Wisconsin faced a heartbreaking loss to Ohio State in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, and any further postseason hopes the squad had were squashed.“I think we learned a lot, struggling a little bit last year,” junior forward Brooke Ammerman said. “I think it’s made us tougher. We were a young team, but now we have a lot of upperclassmen and coach Johnson back and a couple Olympians, so I think we’ll be stronger.”Clearly the Badgers are more confident this year, with stronger chemistry and two more players from the 2009 National Championship team.Although Wisconsin wants to bounce back from last year, Johnson doesn’t think the team has anything to prove this season.“There were circumstances last year that not only the coaching staff, but also the players had to go through, and coming off a national championship – things happen in our world you can’t control,” Johnson said. “We’re jumping in a boat right now and we’re going fishing, but we don’t know what we’re going to catch. We’re going to have a good time and become the strongest team we can be. Some nights it’s going to look real good and other nights we’re going to have to work and it’s going to be a struggle, but that’s how you develop.”While they say they’re just trying to improve this year and become the best team they can be, the Badgers will always have hopes to go to another national championship.“That’s why we do what we do,” Johnson said. “But that’s no different from anyone else in the country. Everybody starts Friday night and everybody’s goal is to be playing in the last game at the end of the season. One of the underlying goals is to take this group of players and make them the best team they’re capable of becoming. If they’re able to win a championship, you know what, that’s awesome.”“You can’t jump ahead too far, you have to take it in baby steps,” Duggan added. “You can’t just be looking at that 40th game right now, we haven’t even played our first. That’s everyone’s dream, to win a national championship, but a lot goes into that. I’m excited to just progress and get there eventually if we can.”Friday night, No. 5 Wisconsin opens its season at the Kohl Center against Rensselaer Polytechnic.“We’re really excited,” Ammerman said. “The first game’s always the best. A bunch of parents come out, and the freshmen, it’s the first time seeing their jerseys. We’re all hungry to get back on the ice and we’re all excited because we’ve been practicing really well. It should be a strong start.”With all the pieces put back into place, the team is excited to finally get the season underway, with the first four series all at home.“Having that home ice advantage – practicing, not having to travel, getting good rest – it’s going to be good for us,” sophomore defenseman Saige Pacholok said. “We have to perform on the road as well, but we’ll take advantage of that right now.”Friday night’s season opener will be the first time UW and RPI has ever met on the ice. RPI finished last season with a 16-15-6 record and returns nine forwards along with two goaltenders.“I don’t know too much about their program,” Duggan said. “I know for some reason they won their league either last year or the year before and obviously that’s tough to do. I’m an east coast kid so I know the [ECAC] is pretty powerful. I think you can’t underestimate your opponents in any game. I think we need to bring what we bring. We need to prepare ourselves as best we can and just do what we do and not focus on what they’re doing. That’s how we’ll be successful.”last_img read more