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The women’s Wisconsin Badgers team is fresh off its fifth NCAA championship, but even as the roster faces notable turnover, pieces are in place for another run in 2020.
With incoming youth, developed scorers, and the nation’s top goaltender, the numbers say coach Mark Johnson’s team will be up for the challenge of a repeat in 2019-20.
18 YEARS OF JOHNSON
In 17 seasons with the Badgers, Johnson’s squad has annually been among the best women’s teams in the nation, accumulating a 494-87-43 overall record.
In that span, the Badgers have eight conference tournament titles, 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, 12 Frozen Four appearances, and five national championships.
Entering his 18th season in Madison, Johnson continues to find a way to replace seemingly irreplaceable talent every summer; a few promising young players are showing there’s no sign of slowing down for the 2018-19 WCHA Coach of the Year.
7 STRAIGHT NCAA APPEARANCES
The Badgers will be eyeing their seventh-consecutive NCAA berth in 2019-20 and not many will doubt their odds. But a tournament bid is hardly enough and the reigning champs will also be tasked with the program’s seventh consecutive Frozen Four bid.
Every member of the team knows what it takes to push them to the top and when you learn from winners and gain the experience of a championship, you become a leader for the youth behind you.
Now, a team full of leaders will pass their knowledge onto the incoming freshmen who are eager to expand a winning culture that will be tasked with overcoming key losses.
6 DEPARTED SENIORS
All six of the women that made up the Badgers’ graduating class this past spring skated in at least 34 of the team’s 41 contests, which shows just how instrumental each one was in pursuit of the program’s fifth NCAA championship.
Annie Pankowski led the Badgers with 28 goals and 50 points, which placed her second and tenth nationally, respectively. With 206 career points (96 G, 110 A) in her four years with the team, her on- and off-ice presence will be hard to replace.
Joining Pankowski in graduating are other forwards Emily Clark, Sam Cogan, and Sophia Shaver, in addition to defensemen Maddie Rolfes and Mikaela Gardner. Clark and Cogan combined for 107 goals and 153 points in their four years and finished fifth and sixth in team scoring in 2018-19.
4 NEW LEADERS
Abby Roque, Mekenzie Steffen, Presley Norby, and Kristen Campbell—more on her later—are four of the seven seniors on the roster entering the 2019-20 season. All four will be key in continuing the winning tradition in Madison.
Roque returns as the leading scorer after a 43-point (11 G, 32 A) season as the team’s top playmaker. Steffen returns as the primary puck-mover from the blue line following a 25-point offensive breakout.
Norby has set career highs in goals during each of her last two years and with an increased role on the backend, a fresh season, and natural maturation, her confidence should be high with another season and a championship under her belt.
2 20-GOAL FRESHMEN
When it comes to filling in the openings from the senior class, 2018-19 freshmen Sophie Shirley and Britta Curl are primed for larger roles after finishing third and fourth in team scoring.
Shirley recorded 38 points (20 G, 18 A) in 41 games as a consistent threat every game, earning the honor of WCHA Rookie of the Year. Another offensive step is only natural with a summer to train and a season to learn from.
Only four players set to return in 2019-20 recorded more goals than Curl last season. Take away Curl’s first nine games—in which she scored just two goals—and her 31 points (20 G, 11 A) in 32 games are that much more impressive. A quick start should help her build on her freshman campaign.
1 KRISTEN CAMPBELL
Campbell was named the Most Outstanding Player in the 2019 NCAA Tournament after posting three consecutive shutouts for the team’s fifth NCAA title.
Campbell led the nation with more than 2,384 minutes played, a 1.03 GAA, an .878 win percentage (35-4-2), and 11 shutouts, while her .940 SV% tied third.
Entering her senior year, Campbell’s near-unmatched skill and fierce competitiveness will help initiate another winning season in Madison before her collegiate career comes to an end in the spring.
0 NON-CONFERENCE LOSSES
The Badgers went a perfect 17-0 against non-conference opponents in 2018-19. A combination of intimidation, unfamiliarity, and overall skill helped them cast aside team after team when it came to non-WCHA foes.
Wins 16 and 17 came during the NCAA Tournament, where the aforementioned Campbell helped dump Syracuse and Clarkson en route to a rendezvous with WCHA rival Minnesota in the title game.
Any form of a loss is rare for the perennially contending Badgers as Johnson’s team is the early favorite to go back-to-back in 2020.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.