UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: BTN gets it right with award for Johnson

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One of the most prolific goal-scorers in college hockey history got credit for a "save'' Monday  when Mark Johnson saved the Badgers from getting skunked on the Big Ten Network awards show.

Wisconsin had nominees in six different categories.

After guiding the UW women's hockey team to its fourth national championship in the last six seasons, the 53-year-old Johnson was honored as BTN's Women's Coach of the Year.

Johnson beat out Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins and Penn State basketball coach Coquese Washington.  In collecting 37 wins overall - an NCAA record -- the Badgers finished the 2010-11 season on a 27-game unbeaten streak. Johnson is now 14-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament.

"We never lost a game from Thanksgiving on and that really impresses me about this group,'' Johnson said. "Especially when you think about being ranked No. 1 (for 12 straight weeks, Jan. 3 to March 21) and having that bullseye on your back every game. 

"It was an incredible run.''

Despite the graduation loss of captain Meghan Duggan - the UW's career scoring leader and the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner as the nation's top player -- Johnson is confident that the Badgers will stay among the elite.

Citing the returning strength of WCHA rivals Minnesota and North Dakota, he pointed out, "That bodes well for our sport and women's hockey. Competiton creates excitement and brings people to the rink.''

There will be no shortage of motivation for Johnson, who has a 247-41-24 (.830) career mark.

"It's one of the things that we teach our players - to be successful you have to be competitive,'' he said. "And that usually starts at the top. It's a lot more enjoyable to win than to lose.

"One of the nice things about the summer is that you get a chance to reflect while recharging your engine. By the time September comes around, you're fired up and ready to go again.''

The off-season will be a little more challenging in one respect for Johnson in that he must find a replacement for long-time assistant Tracey DeKeyser, who plans on retiring.

DeKeyser, who just completed her 12th season with the program, served as Wisconsin's interim coach while Johnson took a one-year sabbatical to coach the 2010 U.S. Women's Olympic hockey team.

"When you lose an assistant coach - someone who has contact with the players on a daily basis - it changes things,'' Johnson said. "Tracey has been here since day one and she's been outstanding.

"She'll certainly be missed for all the things she does, not only form a hockey standpoint, but from helping kids with their academics and personal issues. She's been a great mentor to our players.''

Outside of Johnson's award, UW fans had little to cheer about Monday night when BTN announced its winners. Some decisions were more understandable than others.

For example, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was singled out for Most Dominating Performance - gaining the nod over Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor and Illinois tailback Mikel Leshoure.

Although Taylor was most deserving - after sparking the Badgers past No. 1 Ohio State - Robinson did account for 502 of his team's 532 yards of total offense in a 28-24 win over Notre Dame.

The biggest surprise was that neither of Wisconsin nominees for the Game of the Year - the dramatic triumphs over the unbeaten Buckeyes in football and basketball - resonated with the voters.

Go figure. BTN opted to recognize two really crummy defenses for the roles that they played in Michigan's 67-65 victory over Illinois in triple-overtime. You can do the math.

Michigan's defense ranked No. 110 nationally and got Rich Rodriguez fired, among other things. Meanwhile, the two 7-6 teams combined for 132 points and 1,237 yards of total offense.

For decades, the Big Ten has prided itself on defense winning championships.

There's apparently a different standard for winning awards in the Legends and Leaders era.

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Congrats to Mark Johnson. Watching Mark play for his dad the "Hawk" in the 70's was something but to see what he has done with Badges Womens Hockey is incredible. His dad had it right, "It's a great day for Hockey-Wisconsin Women's hockey that is." What idiot could not vote for one or both of the upset victories against Ohio State. Purely on the statistical chances, they have to be the biggest upsets. Oh well, we did it. On Wisconsin!