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Packer's Perspective: A Sweet Finish for the Seniors

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It has been a while since the last post, and a lot has happened for the Wisconsin women's hockey team. I want to apologize for the long gap in posts. Life on the road has proven to be a bit hectic and scattered, but the next few weeks should be more on track. The trip to Duluth was a long one, with a five hour bus ride each way. The bus ride was relaxing for most of us as we didn't have much homework with the holiday weekend, and I made some cute little turkey cookies for the team to enjoy along the way. 

We left early Thursday morning, arriving in Duluth around 3 p.m., and hit the ice for practice. Practice was the usual round of drills to get the legs moving and finished up with the routine shootout. It was another goalie win on the road, which is always disappointing for the players, but we were happy with their choice for the singer at team meal.

After practice we went back to the hotel and enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving meal as a team. It was different, spending a holiday that is typically shared with our families, away from home with a group of girls in sweats; however, it was a good reminder what a solid group we really are. The group we spend so much time with is more than just a team, and truly becomes much like a family and it was nice to be able to spend the holiday with them. During the Thanksgiving meal the goalies pick of Mikayla Johnson as singer was revealed, and she chose to sing Follow Me by Uncle Kracker, nailing all the notes perfectly.

The game Friday night was a battle from the start. It is always tough to play Duluth on the road, and it took the team some time to get our legs moving and play Wisconsin hockey. We pushed through the obstacles and came together in the end as a team, and were happy to pull away with one point on the road for the night. It is tough to find a positive in a situation when we don't win, but a tie was enough for us to keep in good spirits and learn from the game to put our knowledge to use for Saturday night.

Saturday night's game was a different game altogether, but was a dogfight again nonetheless. The team played hard, and never gave up on the system. We came out with a lot of energy in the third period, and three shifts in, junior forward Karley Sylvester was able to find the back of the net on a beautiful shot glove side high. The team held the lead and played defensively to the end. Senior goaltender Alex Rigsby played great, as did freshman goaltender Ann Renee Desbiens. Ann came in the game cold in the second period, and made a few game changing saves to keep us in it until we got our momentum back. Ann earned the hardhat for the night, which is awarded to the player who embodies our team goals and makes plays that are gritty and sometimes unnoticed by the general public. The team was fired up to pull away with a win, and take 4 out of 6 points on the road. This was the first road win for the team in Duluth since my sophomore year, and it was a great way for the seniors to leave the ice up there one last time.

The team boarded the bus and headed back to Madison in good spirits. We watched Elf on the bus, which is always a team favorite, and also enjoyed some holiday snacks prepared by Mrs. Sylvester (Karley's mom). The trees were little corn flake wreaths, smothered in sprinkles and marshmallow. The team doesn't get to enjoy too many treats that often, so a treat on the way to Duluth and home were definitely highlights of the road trip. The team made it back into Madison around 2 am, and I speak for the entire squad when I say sleeping in my own bed never felt better.

Sunday was spent recovering and relaxing, preparing for school to start up again and taking care of our bodies in order to be ready for one final weekend of games before a much needed break. The team is looking forward to finishing the first half of the season off at home, and ready for the break that follows. 

The games this weekend are on Friday and Sunday at 2 p.m.. We hope to see as many people out as possible to cheer us on one last time in 2013 as we battle for points that will help us maintain our second place spot in the WCHA heading into the second half of the year. Stay tuned for another post this week, as players look forward to the games this weekend and talk about their favorite holiday activities. 

Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin! 

- Madison

Packer's Perspective: Back from frigid North Dakota

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It was a big weekend for the Badgers with not much excitement but the games themselves. It was frigid cold in Grand Forks (the wind chill was -27 when we woke up Saturday), and the cold weather outside helped us stay focused in to the task at hand. We had a lot of down time with two late night games, but it was good to get extra recovery time, and also have consistency in our schedule over the weekend with games being at the same time each night.

Friday night was a good, tough battle, and Alex Rigsby stood tough for us between the pipes all the way through the end, shutting UND out not only in the game and overtime, but also during the three player shootout. Junior forward Blayre Turnbull executed an awesome move as the final shooter to capture the shootout win and allow us to skate through the first night winning an extra point. The first game was good, and it was nice to walk away with an extra point, but after the game we agreed as a team we could come out stronger.

We rallied together after Friday's game and came out flying Saturday night. We played as a team, executed well and took advantage of the chances that came our way. Junior forward Karley Sylvester scored a huge shorthanded goal to put us ahead, and capitalizing in the third period on a few power play opportunities allowed for us to end the night on top 3-1. We played great as a team overall in Grand Forks, and walking away with 5 out of 6 points on the road, especially in a place like North Dakota is something we are very happy with as a team.

We enjoyed the victory on the plane, and also celebrated a bit with the women's volleyball team (who swept over the weekend vs. Michigan State and Michigan) as we picked them up at the airport after their bus broke down.

 It was a great weekend, and it was nice to spend the off day Sunday relaxing, and also catching up on the release of the hot new Hunger Games film. Most of the team made their way over to the theater at some point Sunday to see the movie, and all were in agreement that it was worth the price of admission. Following the Hunger Games, a number of us relaxed while doing homework and also watching the American Music Awards.

The weekend was a success, but the work is not done yet. The team hits the ice again Monday to go to work in preparation for the upcoming games in Duluth. It is a tough stretch of games on the road, with each and every point weighing heavily on our status heading into the holiday break. The team looks forward to preparing this week to take care of business in Duluth, and we hope to keep the train rolling as we continue on to our ultimate goal. Until next time, thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

 - Madison

Packer's Perspective: Going up north

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Time to hit the ice again, as we have arrived in Grand Forks, N.D., and are ready to go to work this weekend. We left early Thursday morning, loaded up the bus and headed to the airport, taking a quick charter flight to Grand Forks. The ground was covered in snow and the bitter cold was a rude awakening early this morning. Practice went well, and the team had a good jump despite spending time on the plane and being carted around by various buses.

The highlight of the trip thus far has been the bowling tournament, although there was a fun crafts show set up in the lobby of the hotel where a few players bought some goodies. The bowling tournament was comprised of our team broken up into six smaller teams. It was friendly competition, and the Johnson family proved to be the best bowlers as Coach Johnson and Mikayla were unstoppable on the alley. 

The tournament was a fun change of pace, a great team bonding activity, and a good way to keep busying during the long block of free time. The team will have a pregame skate before Friday's game to go over systems and get our legs moving. We are looking forward to the first game as series with North Dakota are always high tempo and intense. These games are of utmost importance regarding to not only national ranking, but also the battle for the top three spots in the WCHA. 

We have prepared well all week for the series and are looking forward to working for a few road wins this weekend. The games begin tomorrow night at 7 p.m. and hope all those back home can take some time to tune in and watch us battle for bragging rights. Check back in at the end of the weekend for an overview and hopefully some positive feedback regarding the games this weekend.

Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

- Madison

Packer's Perspective: The Journey Continues

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BLOG_IMG_1558.jpgThis weekend was quite the trip for the Badger squad. We started off Friday morning with a pregame skate, followed by meal and some down time before the game. 

The game against Northeastern was a battle, one of the toughest fights we have had yet this season, but we came together as a group, worked hard until the end and pulled out a victory over NU, with a congratulations to freshman Jenny Ryan for both the game winner and her first goal as a Badger. 

Friday night was spent in our rooms for the most part. It was late by the time we got back to the hotel and most girls ate and then went up to relax and get to bed. 

Saturday we woke up and went for a nice team walk through the village to get our legs warmed up, followed by a team stretch before meal and watching at little film to prepare for the game against Boston University. We had some downtime after the meal before loading up the bus and heading to the rink. The game was very different from the night before, and we came out strong. Friday night we were still having difficulty adjusting to the altitude, but Saturday was a whole different story as our high conditioning level played to our advantage in our 5-0 victory over BU. 

After the game, we headed back to the hotel and met with our families. The team and families went out to a small restaurant in Vail to hang out with one another and enjoy some food before heading back to the hotel and taking advantage of one last night in the Rockies. 

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We stayed at a remarkable hotel that had a beautiful spa consisting of four hot tubs and a heated pool so naturally we all threw on our hotel robes, and headed down to relax after a hard fought weekend. We hung out as a group in the hot tub before turning in for the night.

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Sunday morning we got up and had some breakfast (breakfast sandwiches were amongst the favorite item on the menu) before heading over to the rink to run a clinic and meet some young, hopeful future Badgers. The team was tired, but we enjoyed giving back to the crowd that supported us over the weekend, and the turnout was much more than we had anticipated. After the clinic we hung around and mingled with the young skaters for a bit, signing autographs and taking pictures, then loaded up the bus and headed back to the hotel. We packed up our rooms and fully loaded the bus, as we had to be out of the hotel by noon, after which we had three hours to kill around town, so most of us went shopping and saw a little more of the town that we missed out on while restricted by our game schedule. We gathered up at about 3:30, got on the bus and are headed to Denver. We are very lucky as we had a charter airplane waiting for us that took us right back to Madison. 

Our games resume this weekend as we head up to North Dakota to take them on in their home arena. The UND series will be a hard fought battle, considering they just ended the 62 game unbeaten streak by the Gophers, but we are looking to put the same game together that we did for BU and work hard again as a group. 

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The team returns to the ice today to begin preparing for UND, continuing on our journey to our ultimate goal. Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

- Madison


Packer's Perspective: The Captains Take on Vail

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The time has finally come and we have arrived here in Vail, Colorado! We took off at about 6 a.m. this morning from Madison, on a chartered plane, and arrived in Denver about three hours later. The landing was amazing, dropping down in the middle of the Rockies and getting a view of the city early in the morning due to the time change. Once on the ground we loaded up the bus and drove through the mountains to get to Vail, a beautiful drive that was full of excitement and anticipation as we neared the rink. 

Senior Captain Alex Rigsby was happy to arrive in Vail, having visited the city numerous times, and is looking forward to a positive team experience.

 "There was a lot of excitement once we landed and started heading up the mountains," Rigsby said. "It's a new experience for a lot of girls, so it's awesome we are able to play in such an incredible environment. Practice went well and it is always good when showdown ends in a goalie win (that last point by Rigsby is highly debatable amongst other players)."

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 Practice was short and to the point. Coach did a great job of keeping it simple, knowing the legs would be a little tired after the long trip. 

"After we landed I felt very excited," senior captain Kelly Jaminski said. "The first practice was an adjustment with the altitude but it was great to be on the ice with the girls and after we get a good nights rest I think we will be ready to go tomorrow." 

It was cool to see the other teams arrive while we were on the ice, and is a nice little camaraderie as we are staying in close proximity to one another in the rink all weekend, as well as all sharing the same hotel. Moving along with the amazing aspects of this trip...our hotel. We are in an awesome hotel right at the base of the mountains in the Vail village. 

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After practice we headed over to the hotel, got checked in and instantly hit the city to explore. Most of us found our way to a great little pizza parlor in town and had a bite to eat after the long day of activity. We didn't stay out long as we don't want to wear ourselves out for the games, but it was nice to get out and enjoy the town a bit and take it all in. After seeing the town a bit, most of us headed back to get some homework done or relax and hang out with our families. It is a very cool trip and a lot of families made the trip so we are looking forward to some time with them when we can. When asked about the games, the captains all had similar takes. 

 "I'm really looking forward to competing against teams we never get to see and spending quality time the girls on the team as well as family members who are here to watch the games," Jaminski said. "We are really blessed to have this opportunity."

 "We were able to have some downtime after practice, so it was fun walking around the village and looking in all the shops," Rigsby said. "It's going to be a fun weekend."

 "This week I am looking forward to playing some really competitive out of conference games," Turnbull said. "We don't get the chance to play teams from the East Coast that often so it will be a great challenge for our team."

Personally, I'm really looking forward to a snowball fight with some of the locals, when it hopefully snows later this weekend. We're expected to get three to five inches of snow on Saturday. 

The first game is tomorrow night, and we look forward to what is sure to be a great experience. The rink is a tiny old school building, but is beautiful in its build and will create a great atmosphere tomorrow night as fans cram in to watch the action. We open up tomorrow night against Northeastern, and hope all those back home can tune in and cheer us on. 

Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

- Madison

Packer's Perspective: Prepping for Vail

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Another weekend down, and many more to come for the Wisconsin team as we return to this ice for practice in preparation for the upcoming games in Vail. The weekend was a much needed break for the entire group and was a great chance to catch up on 'life as a normal kid'. The entire team had a variety of activities going on, but the highlight from what I heard was a team gathering at a local restaurant in town. I was home for the weekend, watching with my parents and sister as Michigan got their bums kicked by the Nebraska football team. 

While I was home however; many of my teammates hung around town. The team (minus a few of us) went to Samba, and enjoyed a nice variety of foods. Samba is a restaurant that is usually a pretty heavy meal and is a favorite among many in our locker room. Along with Samba, a few girls headed to Chicago to relax and have some fun. The weekend was a nice break, a great time to catch up with friends, get some work done, and most importantly get packed, as it meant fewer days between us and the trip to Vail.

As they hype from the weekend calms down a bit, practice will be daily as usual this week Monday-Wednesday, with two lifts sprinkled in, then we pack up early Thursday morning and head to Vail at about 6 a.m. The team is excited. Coach told us that we are a small part in history making as we prepare to play for the first time in the Rocky Mountains. As excited and prepared as we all are for the games, the girls are also looking forward to the experience. The uniforms we have planned and the atmosphere itself is a unique treat for women's hockey. This group has worked hard to hopefully make this trip both memorable and successful. We hope all fans can follow through the various outlets that will be covering our games this weekend, and I encourage you to tune in when you can as this is sure to be a weekend to remember.

 The team heads off Thursday morning. Check back in later this week for reactions from players after landing in Vail and taking the ice for the first time in the mountains! 

Until next time, thanks for reading and On Wisconsin!

-Madison

Packer's Perspective: Working hard during the bye week

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It has been a few days since the last post, so I will try my best to catch fans up on what the Badgers have been up to.

Last weekend was a great way to finish off the first chunk of the season. We were very happy to have a hard earned win both nights, and it was nice to finish the first leg of the season off on a high note. 

Following the weekend, we took very little time to have a break and have been hard at work despite the bye week and off weekend. This week is a great opportunity to work on our conditioning and also focus on some skills stuff. We had a hard practice Tuesday, Wednesday was a game day, which is always fun because despite being teammates, the competitive side in all of us shines through and creates a high tempo atmosphere. The rest of the week will continue to be high tempo and skill focused as we skate Thursday and skate Friday as well. 

We lift three times in this off week, and have bike workouts on the days where we are not lifting in the weight room. The extra work is taxing on the team, but everyone is in good spirits and working hard, focusing on taking this week to get better.

The upcoming weekend is something we are all looking forward to. It is rare to get time off, and coaches are working us hard this week, but also rewarding us with an entire weekend to recover and relax. Some of the girls are returning home for the weekend, others have family coming to town to visit, and some are simply looking forward to having time to relax and hang out with friends around Madison. 

The team is excited about the weekend off, but also excited for the upcoming trip to Vail. It is going to be a great experience, and a unique opportunity to play some hockey in a beautiful setting. The team has some special uniforms that will be worn in the Vail games, and I encourage all fans to tune in later for photos of the uniforms that are a first for Badger Hockey. 

The week has been crazy, but as it winds down, we look forward to taking a break and having some time to focus on our studies and also on ourselves. I am looking forward to returning home to Michigan, where I will visit my mom, dad, puppy, and sister who attends the University of Michigan. Despite being a loyal Badger, I am excited to attend a Michigan football game at the Big House (sorry folks!). I am also planning to go to a Detroit Red Wings game with my sister, and can't wait for a little fun with my family after the long stretch of hard games we have just completed. 

Next week will have posts gearing up for Vail, filling fans in on our reactions and emotions as we arrive, and also wrap up what the experience was like and how the team fared in the Rocky Mountains. Tune in next week for more on what is to come in Vail, and to follow the Badgers as we prepare for a first time experience and one we are all excited to be a part of. Until next time, thanks for reading! On Wisconsin!


Packer's Perspective: Moving forward

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It was a big weekend for the team as we swept the Lindenwood Lady Lions and continue on to our goal at the end of the season. We had three ladies with their first Badger goals this weekend, and I caught up with them to get their take on what that felt like. 

"Scoring my first badger goal was an amazing feeling," freshman forward Mikayla Johnson said. "Hearing that horn go off and celebrating with my teammates was a memory I'll never forget." 

The celebration following the goal was pretty unique, and sophomore forward Rachel Jones, who made a beautiful backdoor pass on the play to assist MJ's goal, may have been the most excited person in the building. It was cool to watch our team get excited for one another, and shows the unity and support that makes this group such a strong unit.

Another Badger scoring both Friday and Saturday night to record her first and second goal as a Badger was freshman defenseman Mellissa Channell. Channey and I go way back to our days playing in Detroit with Little Caesars and it was nice to see her get a few points this weekend. Both goals were nice shots from the point, and when asked about her goal, she has a funny story that will make this a memory much like MJ's.

 "I remember right before going out that shift I asked Paul (Hickman) if I could use my backup stick, as many people always blame not scoring on the stick, so I just thought a chance would help," Channell said. "That next shift I get a beautiful pass from Bergy (senior defenseman Natalie Berg) and scored. It was an exhilarating experience, and what makes it better is that my mom was there to see it." 

A nice goal, and a good team play that helped make this moment special for Channell, and we look forward to more contributions from her this season.

The third Badger with her first goal this weekend was sophomore forward Katy Harding. Her goal came late in the game Saturday night and was the result of a good forecheck all around, but she declined to comment and was unavailable for a face to face interview as she has been hiding in her apartment as a result of being swarmed by paparazzi since the goal.

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Following the game, the team got together for a little innocent fun. We had a costume party with the team at senior Stefanie McKeough's house. As many know Stef has been sidelined due to injury for a few years now, but she is a great part of our team chemistry and is a mature leader in the locker room as she has been constantly supporting and guiding the team. The top costumes of the night were the Hanson brother's made up of Mikayla Johnson, Katarina Zgraja, and Stef McKeough and also the classy biker chicks, comprised of Alex Rigsby, Natalie Berg and Kelly Jaminski. Blayre Turnbull also had an awesome homemade cotton candy costume that she constructed out of a pillow and some spray paint. The freshmen were each a different color glow stick, which was a cute idea, but the Hanson brothers and biker ladies showed them up with more creativity in the final polls of best costume.

The get together was a relaxing and fun event to top off a successful weekend, as we had to quickly turn around and refocus to prepare for Ohio State. This is a big weekend for our team as Ohio State is ranked No. 10 in the country and will be a good test for us moving forward. This weekend is the last of games before a weekend off and we hope to finish the home stretch off with a couple wins. The ladies are focused in and preparing for this upcoming weekend and we hope to see you all out to cheer us on in this final leg of our long home stand. Tune in later this week for more updates and thoughts going in to this weekend. 

Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

- Madison

Packer's Perspective: Game day vs. Lindenwood

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It's game day here in Madison and the girls are excited for another weekend to get better. We face off against Lindenwood tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m. The games are an opportunity for us to play some games out of conference and to see some new competition other than the typical WCHA play that we are accustomed to. 
 
"Lindenwood will be a good test for us to see how far we can push ourselves even though they aren't a typical rival," junior forward Katy Josephs said. "The weekend will be fun to keep building chemistry in our lines and as a team." 

Fellow forward, and freshman Mikayla Johnson had similar comments about the upcoming series. 

"I am excited for our team to get another weekend not only to play at home but to get better and grow as a team," Johnson said. "Every weekend brings something new and I'm looking forward to what this weekend has to bring."

The team as a whole is looking forward to the games this weekend as they will be yet another test of how we have gotten better from last weekend. We use each week as time to learn from previous games and push ourselves to make sure we are always moving forward on the journey to our ultimate goal. The team has done a great job of staying focused this week and we are looking forward to hitting the ice for another series of games at home. We hope to see all of our fans out at LaBahn Arena this weekend. 

Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

-Madison

Packer's Perspective: Another step forward

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This weekend was a success for the Badger squad, and we had a lot of contributions across the board. Freshman goaltender Ann-Renee Debiens got her first start between the pipes, and also earned herself a shutout in her first collegiate game, so congrats to her on a successful start to what we all believe will be a promising career here at UW. 

The weekend was good, and it was nice to get two more wins as a group as we continue on our journey to the finish line this season. This weekend we are gearing up to face Lindenwood, and much like previous weeks, we are back to work. Monday is what Coach Johnson likes to call workday. It is a day that is usually finished with 8-10 minutes of skating, working to keep our conditioning up. It is never too grueling, but enough to get us moving and get the heart rates up a bit. 

This weekend was also the first weekend that we were able to use our heart rate monitoring system. This is an awesome perk that we are able to use and we are grateful to our staff for getting it up and running for the season. We all wear heart rate monitors during lifting sessions, practices and games.  

The monitors send information to a little hub, that kind of looks like a tiny spaceship, which is located behind our bench. The hub then relays this information to a computer where it is stored and we are able to check our results after the game. This system is nice because it enables us to see how much we worked during a game, and also track how many calories we burned so we are able to properly refuel our bodies and be ready to go the next day. This system is awesome, and is definitely a tool that will continue to help us as we improve throughout the season.

The team is looking forward to another series at home this weekend, but first, we have a week of practice and preparing. We had a video session yesterday, and will have another power play video session today, where we learn from what worked for our team, and also look at breakdowns so we can improve moving forward. This group is always working to improve on areas that will make us better, and our willingness to adapt has been an advantage as we face new situations each weekend.

That's all for now, check back later in the week for a recap of this weeks practices and thoughts from players going into this weekend. 

Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

-Madison

ON WISCONSIN