Badgers hungry coming off disappointing WCHA tourney finish

first_imgThe women’s hockey team is one of the top prides of Badger Nation. With an overall 31-4-2 record, the team is the No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA tournament this weekend. The Badgers have been working hard to get ready for the last phase of their playing season.The Badgers are set to host Mercyhurst this weekend at the Kohl Center for the NCAA quarterfinals. Mercyhurst is the No. 8 seed in the tournament and is coming off a recent loss to Robert Morris University in the College Hockey America Championship.Mercyhurst’s Lakers have faced the Badgers a total of seven times, with the Badgers coming out with the win each time. The last time the two teams came up against each other in the NCAA tournament was at the 2009 finals, where the Badgers took the win, beating the Lakers 5-0.The Badgers may be the top seed in the NCAA, but that isn’t how senior forward Hilary Knight sees it.“We’re one of eight teams now; it’s not like we’re number one,” she said. “As a senior I do sense the pressure, but for the team I think it’s just another game we have to win in order to extend our season, and win the national championship.”Wisconsin has appeared in the NCAA playoffs and the Frozen Four five out of the last six years, taking home the trophy in 2006, 2007, 2009 and again last year when Wisconsin beat Boston University 4-1 for the title.Head coach Mark Johnson is familiar with the anticipation that comes before the NCAA playoffs and is anxious to play.“I think it’s exciting,” Johnson said. “It’s a good time of year, especially if you’re still playing and everyone knows where the end is right now; it’s in sight.”The team is also working on getting in the zone and in the right mindset for playoffs.“We’ve been having good practices and really focusing hard on what’s ahead so I think as long as we stay focused we’ll be ready to play on Saturday,” junior forward Brianna Decker said.The atmosphere in the locker room has been affected by the Badgers surprising 3-1 loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA Final Face-Off last weekend.“It was an eye-opening experience; very humbling,” Decker said. “It showed us that we can be defeated, and I think a lot’s going to come from that.”The loss came in the second round of the WCHA playoffs, after Wisconsin swept Minnesota State 7-0 and 4-0 in the first rounds and Minnesota-Duluth had beat Ohio State 4-3 and 3-2. The University of Minnesota ended up with the win in the Final Face-Off and won a spot in the NCAA tournament.As for the Badgers, they have managed to spin their loss into a positive motivator. In Knight’s opinion, the loss added fuel to the fire and has been an adrenaline boost for practicing harder this week.“We were disappointed,” Knight said. “We knew we sold ourselves short and I think people will remember how that feels coming into this weekend and remember that we need to put everything out on the ice and compete even harder.”The Badgers will be one of the most decorated teams at the tournament, boasting multiple awards and honors. Five Wisconsin players hold All-WCHA honors, with Decker being the 2012 WCHA Player of the Year. The Defensive Player of the Year award went to junior Stefanie McKeough, and sophomore Alex Rigsby was given the league’s Goaltending Champion title. Coach Johnson also won the WCHA Coach of the Year.As a whole, the Badgers appear ready to skate onto the ice on Saturday and play their best.“Normally this time of year people get excited. There’s definitely energy coming off of the fact that we’re playing at home in front of our own crowd at a semi-final game,” Johnson said. “There is nervousness, there is anticipation and there is excitement.”last_img

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