first_imgForward Brianna Decker, winner of the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, leads the charge for Wisconsin women\’s hockey in 2012.[/media-credit]Winning is something the Wisconsin women’s hockey team has become quite familiar with over recent years. This year’s class of seniors has compiled an impressive 88 wins over its three seasons as Badgers, including two national championship appearances. After losing to rival Minnesota in its title-defending effort last season, UW enters the 2012-2013 season with a determined attitude to make things right, but the Badgers insist they are approaching the season with a “one game at a time” mentality.Senior forward Brianna Decker, last season’s Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner for the best female hockey player in NCAA Division I, leads an experienced Badger squad. Her eye-popping 82 points (37 goals, 45 assists) last year headlines the Badgers’ attack as they enter the upcoming season, but it is fellow seniors Stefanie McKeough and Jordan Brickner who provide the defensive stability necessary for the team to thrive. McKeough was recognized as last season’s WCHA Player of the Year and has won the same award within the team since she stepped foot on campus. Meanwhile, Brickner, who transferred to the program from Colgate before her junior season, was the only Badger to play in all 40 games last season and not be called for a single penalty.Together, the three seniors represent a balance of talent few teams across the country can mach, as evidenced by the lopsided score lines of recent years. Head coach Mark Johnson has taken appreciation in how each senior has implemented a different style of leadership, allowing for unique team cohesion.“[Decker] is intense; she’s focused, she has goals in mind, and I think with all the things she does on and off the ice, people follow her and her leadership is by example,” Johnson said. “Jordan is a little bit quieter than some of the other players, but a lot of the players respect her work habits and take notice. Then, (McKeough) has elevated her game by showing a great deal of commitment, and her hard work is being recognized by her peers.”With all the success the trio has had during their time at UW, they still remain grounded in their approach toward the new season.“We’re not going to take any game for granted,” Decker said. “We’re going to work one game at a time, one period at a time and that is how we’re going to be successful.”Whenever the seniors spoke about the added responsibilities that come with being veterans, they referenced their fellow teammates and how accountability within the team sets the tone for another championship run.“All the returners, not even just the seniors, want to redeem ourselves. The work ethic thus far has been awesome,” Brickner said. “Everybody is putting in the extra minute or two of skating at the end of practice to make sure everyone’s in shape and everyone’s going to bring it this year.”Another aspect working in the team’s favor is the new La Bahn Arena, which is set to open this season and will serve as the women’s team’s home ice. When compared to the Kohl Center, the La Bahn Arena figures to be a more intimate, rowdy and loud environment, something that will place added pressure on opponents. Decker, McKeough and Brickner all enjoyed their time playing in front of fans at the Kohl Center, but each is chomping at the bit to set skates on the new facility’s ice, even if for just one year.“I think it will get us more energized to play in the La Bahn and it will be nice to have just one home,” McKeough said. “It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun and it’s going to give us a spark before our games.”While the excitement to play in its new home is evident, the women’s hockey team will have to start its season on the road, as it faces Minnesota State-Mankato Sept. 28. A familiar foe, the Badgers were able to beat the Mavericks all six times they met last season, with Wisconsin winning by a combined 31-3. However, the savvy seniors are not underestimating their first conference opponent in the least.“After playing there for three years now, in a smaller rink with a quick team, they always try hard and don’t give up,” Decker said. “So, our team is going to bring a lot of energy and continue to work hard for three periods.”With that mindset coming from UW’s reigning female athlete of the year, it is clear the team is in good hands. The seniors are full of anticipation for their final season but are also tremendously appreciative for the time they have been able to spend playing for the Badgers.“Being a Badger, you really get to experience it when you come out in uniform in front of all the fans,” Brickner said. “The whole culture of being a Badger and going to school at Wisconsin is just such an honor and just a huge deal; it’s awesome to be a part of.”last_img