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Packer's Perspective: Border Battle Part II

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Hey Badger Fans!

The time is here, and the team has never been more prepared than we are now to step up to the plate and take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The team has worked hard all week to study film, execute plays, and fine tune systems, but more importantly, we have been preparing all season to take on the number one ranked team in front of our home crowd. This is the biggest series of the season so far, and we are excited for the opportunity to play at home and finish the regular season off at home with two great games.

We have had a great week of practice, and everyone is feeling good heading into the weekend. The team is looking forward to the opportunity and know we are prepared to play the best six periods of hockey yet this year Friday and Saturday night.

When talking with junior forward Blayre Turnbull, she was excited, pumped up, but most of all focused heading into the weekend.

"There are a few things I am looking forward to this weekend," Turnbull said. "I always look forward to playing the Gophers, but this weekend is especially special since we will get to play in the Kohl Center (Saturday night) and hopefully break a record. Another thing I am looking forward to is having my family in town. There are few opportunities for them to get here throughout the season so it will be great to have them in the stands this weekend."

Sophomore power house defenseman Courtney Burke had similar emotions about the upcoming series.

"Just playing in a rivalry against Minnesota is always a game we get up for and it's even that the games are in front of all our friends and family," Burke said. "Both players, like most of the team, are looking forward to having friends and family here this weekend, but also recognize that what goes on inside the glass is our primary focus."

This weekend has a great deal of activity, from Senior Night Friday to Fill the Bowl Saturday, but the team knows what is most important is getting the much needed wins to make these moments that much more memorable.

"We need to focus on playing Badger hockey," Burke said. "Play the whole 60 minutes each night and out work the other team. Those are some of our strengths and we need to stick to them all weekend."

Turnbull could not agree more that hard work and sticking to what we have done all season is what will make the difference for us this weekend.

"For our team to be successful it is going to be super important to stick to our game," Turnbull said. "If we play well defensively like we have been lately, things will fall into place offensively." It is no secret that the Gophers have a number of threats offensively, but sticking to our game and taking care of our end will lead to opportunities for us to capitalize in the offensive zone.

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This weekend is set to be the best series of the season. With both teams coming off long winning streaks, and the competitive nature of both squads, the games are sure to be a fast pace battle from start to finish. We are looking forward to the puck drop Friday night, and going to work as we battle the number one team in our own barn.

The puck drops Friday night at 7 p.m. and we hope to see all our fans out to cheer us on. For those who can't make the game Friday, be sure to clear your calendar for Saturday night 7 p.m. as we will play for the first time in two years in the Kohl Center, looking to break the NCAA attendance record for a third time! Come on out and cheer us to victory as we continue on our journey to the finish line this season!

Until next time, thanks for reading, and ON WISCONSIN!!

-Madison Packer

Packer's Perspective: Back From the Buckeye State

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Packer's Perspective: Back to battle the Buckeyes

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Packer's Perspective: Help us Fill the Bowl

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Packer's Perspective: Heading into the bye week

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Hey Badger Fans!

It was another successful weekend for the team, as we swept the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for the first time in quite a while for a number of the upperclassmen on our team. It was a great feeling, and the team overcame a lot of adversity over the weekend. The games consisted of a number of power play opportunities for both sides as it was a physical series, but the team executed special teams well and play a consistent 60 minutes both nights to walk away on the weekend with six out of six points. It was a big weekend for the team, and puts us in a great position heading into an off weekend. 

Although we do not have games this upcoming weekend, the team is taking no time off, but rather using the extra time to hit it a little harder in order to prepare ourselves as best as possible for the final six regular season games. The team has an off weekend and then we will head to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Buckeyes, before returning home to play in our final regular season home series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The team is ready for a weekend off and is excited to use the extra time to push a little harder and spend some extra time on skills and other areas of the game that we can fine tune while we have a few days to spend. An exciting moment for everyone came with the announcement of no classes! We were given a "college snow day" because of the cold weather, which isn't something that happens very often, so the team will get to enjoy a morning free of classes. The team will practice throughout the week, before having a few days off on the weekend to rest up and recover. The team is looking forward to what will come after the break, and is ready to go to work this week to get the most out of our extra efforts as possible.

Check back later in the week to hear all about the training sessions and what the Badgers have been up to in the cold weather! Until next time, thanks for reading and On Wisconsin!

-Madison Packer

Packer's Perspective: Bring on the 'Dogs

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Hey Badger Fans!

It's been a good week of hard work the the team, both on and off the ice. Classes resumed Tuesday, so the days of only having practice are over. The team has a wide variety of majors and class schedules, and it has been a frigid week of getting to and from class all across campus. The team has managed the transition back to classes well, as our schedules have changed a great deal from first semester. 

The team is practicing later in the evening, with most of us having early/mid-afternoon classes. The team practiced all week, while also heading to the weight room twice to improve off the ice. The team was also busy Wednesday night as a few ladies made their way over to the UW Children's Hospital to visit with some local Badger kids. Despite having class, the team has been focused on the upcoming games. We anticipate two high paced, high intensity battles this weekend as it is always a dogfight when we play Duluth. 

The team is looking forward to playing at home in front of our own crowd, and have spent time looking over film to improve from last week and put ourselves in a good position to be successful this weekend. The team did a good job last weekend of putting together six periods of hockey, and that is the same intensity and consistency that we are looking to build on this weekend. We hope all the fans can bundle up and make their way out to the games this weekend, as we play at 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m, on Sunday, and create some energy in the building as we look to go to work and get two big wins at home this weekend. 

Until next time, thanks for reading and On Wisconsin! 

- Madison

Packer's Perspective: Back to Business

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Hope all those in Madison are staying warm as the weather has been sunny but freezing these last few days, or at least that has been the experience for myself and most of my teammates. 

The weather Sunday afternoon however was surprisingly nice and turned out to be perfect for our outdoor skate in the community. The team returned Saturday night around 7 p.m. after enjoying a quick flying following a series sweep up in Bemidji. Sunday was a nice relaxing day off where we were able to get out and be active in the community with some of the fans who come out to support us throughout the year.

Monday we went back to work on and off the ice. We had practice Monday morning and then hit the gym as a team to get in a good workout to start the week off right. The team knows there is a great deal riding on the games this weekend and we are doing everything we can to properly prepare for the upcoming series at home. Tuesday will be the first day of class for myself and fellow teammates, and it will be a sure change of pace after having a month of doing nothing but hockey around campus.

This is just a quick recap post of the weekend, but tune in Thursday for reactions from teammates on their first few days back at class, and what to expect in the upcoming series against rival Minnesota Duluth!

Thanks for reading and On Wisconsin!

- Madison

 

Packer's Perspective: Badgers take on Bemidji

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Hey Badger Fans!

The team has arrived in Bemidji after a short day of travel, and a very cold welcome. We left Madison this afternoon at 3 p.m., and headed to the airport where we flew straight into Bemidji, headed to the rink for a quick practice, and then checked in at the hotel. The team had our usual evening meal, before turning in to get some rest to prepare for the upcoming games. The team is looking forward to the series and hopes to build of last game's momentum and move forward.

'"We are expecting a good battle this weekend," freshman forward Sydney McKibbon said. "They will be fired up to play us at their home rink with their home fans to cheer them on, especially considering we beat them both games in Madison. I think we need to come out strong in the first period in order to set the tone for the weekend. Last weekend we learned that you can't take any team lightly and that we need to play a complete 60 minutes in order to win. We came out on Sunday against North Dakota and did the little things to be successful so we need to carry that on in Bemidji. This weekend is going to be all about compete level and who is willing to work the hardest and win the battles. We are well prepared and had a great week of practice and I think we are all excited to play some games."

Fellow Badger forward, Rachel Jones, had similar emotions heading into the weekend and realizes the weight this weekend holds in the standings.

"Heading into this weekend, I think our team realizes how important these games are with the understanding that Bemidji didn't like being swept when they came to Madison," Jones said. "They are going to come out hard and play for the whole 60 minutes, this is a team that won't go down without a battle. Some of the things our team needs to build off of from last weekend is we need to play 100% every time we hit the ice, winning every one on one battle. After last weekend our team knows that we have to play for the whole game in order to be successful."

The team is well aware of the importance of the upcoming weekend, as well as the importance of competing for the full 60 minutes. Bemidji is a team that is always difficult to play on the road, and in order to be successful in their barn we have to give it everything we have every time we hit the ice.

The games take place Friday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and we hope those back home can follow our games and cheer us on as we look to walk away this weekend with a few road wins in our back pocket.

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

-Madison 

Packer's Perspective: Back to Work

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Hey Badger Fans,

Thank you to all who came out and supported us this weekend! The atmosphere was great, and the team thrives when the home crowd gets involved. Saturdays game was a tough loss, but the team used our mistakes from the game to learn and build for Sunday. It was tough when North Dakota came out and got a quick goal again, but the team rallied together as one and played our hearts out, taking 3 points away from the weekend and finishing on a high note. There was a lot to learn from overall after the weekend, but we also did a number of things very well as a team. Monday was a much needed day off after the grueling weekend and physical series, and all the ladies took full advantage of the extra recovery.

Monday night we gathered as a team at LaBahn, and had a little 101 clinic. There were about 100 kids that showed up for the clinic, and it was a great way to give back to a community that supports us throughout the season. We spent an hour on the ice, teaching and playing around with the little kids, and then we headed up to the concourse of the arena to sign some autographs and eat some pizza with the skaters. The whole event lasted a little over two hours, and it was a huge success. We are grateful to all those who showed up to support our organization and hope all the participants enjoyed being little Badgers for the day.

Tuesday was back to work, as we had film, practice, and lift. We reviewed the game from Sunday, looking at times when we had a few breakdowns, and also focusing on the things we did well and need to continue to execute in order to find success this season. We then hit the ice for a quick practice to work on skill and focus on what we need to do this weekend, and then headed down to the weight room for a quick workout to keep in shape. After workout, the team enjoyed a nice meal, and a few of us headed to a local middle school to visit with a fourth grade classroom.

While visiting with the fourth graders, we talked about our experiences as young athletes, our journey to the University of Wisconsin, and then answered a number of varying questions from our favorite NHL team to our favorite movie or color. The kids were awesome, and certainly came prepared with a number of questions to ask. The visit with the fourth graders was finished with a quick autograph session, before we headed home. The visit to the elementary school was extra special for senior goaltender Ilana Friedman, who attended that middle school when she was younger. Later tonight, a number of ladies will be heading to the local senior home to visit with some elderly members of the community. I am always amazed at the willingness of my teammates to give back in the community whenever they get a chance, especially with the highly demanding lifestyle they live.

The journey for our team continues this weekend as we head up to Bemidji to play on the road. Check back in later this week for emotions from players about the upcoming games, and a recap of our journey to Northern Minnesota. Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin!!

Packer's Perspective: The Badgers Behind the Masks

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Hey Badger fans! Today's post is a little different. Usually, I bring to you the upcoming anticipation of games, post game reactions, and the activities we are involved in daily throughout the community. Although this post will include some of our daily interactions in the community, it is more of a story. The story behind the Wisconsin women's hockey team, and the backgrounds that bring this group together to create a family that is stronger than any obstacle we face together. 

This story does not start in any specific location, it has no general direction, and most of the quotes and information will remain anonymous out of respect for the privacy of my teammates, although at times, some individuals are named. The purpose of this story is to show the fans of the Wisconsin women's hockey team that the individuals who make up this nationally ranked program, are not all that different from anyone else in the community. We show up to the rink each day, leave our lives at the door, and for three hours we interact as athletes; however, when the lights dim and we change back into our street clothes, my teammates and I venture back out into the real world, and face realities that are often hard to cope with. Through the spotlighting of my team in this blog, I will work to show that the talents of my teammates on the ice are far less impressive than their courage in the outside world, and that if the phenomenal athletes I suit up next to each day can use their setbacks to propel them to success, perhaps we can inspire our followers and fans can do the same.

Injuries are a setback in any environment. People are injured in the work force, in daily activity, and like many athletes on the team, in athletic competition. Fans often see players get hurt. They read about injury reports, or see a player walking around with a cast or bag of ice; however, what the fans do not see is the hard work and mental determination it takes for these players to get back on the ice. Ranging from broken bones, to stitches, to major reconstructive surgeries, the Badgers are made up of relentless women who dedicate their lives to a sport they are passionate about. 

"You can never ask why me. Once you start asking yourself that and weighing through all the possibilities, that is time wasted that you could have used to get better and get back with the team." 

One player that stands out for her battle with injuries is senior defenseman Stef McKeough. Many have read her story and know that Stef has been sidelined because of a concussion, but my focus is not on her injury. My focus is on Stef as a teammate, and as a compassionate individual who has had her athletic career halted because of a devastating injury, yet shows up for every home game to support her team. She spends hours and hours a day each week in the training room. Hours of work that people never see to try and get back to where she once was and to try to continue living life as a normal college student. 

As a former roommate, and current teammate of Stef McKeough, I can honestly say I have never met a more selfless individual. I watched her battle with her injury last year, and I think that is one of the toughest things I have had to stand by and watch a teammate go through. Someone so passionate and caring for others, with no control over what was going on in her own life. Through her struggles, I learned that the outlook on a situation is everything, and it was incredible to see someone in such a negative spot maintain such a positive composure for those around her. She has taught me, and our entire team, the true meaning of being a good teammate. Her passion for the game of hockey was always obvious, but long after being stuck in the bleachers, she continues to give back and support her team no matter what the circumstance. 

Stef is a member of the Wisconsin team that does not suit up with us on a daily basis, but gives back in an invaluable way with her support and constant encouragement. She always pats us on the back on the way to the ice, and is always giving insight between periods. She follows the team on the road, and offers positive feedback when we find ourselves frustrated. Stef McKeough is the unsung hero within our locker room, a teammate who receives little credit for the unrecognized support she provides. Like Stef, numerous of my teammates have had surgeries and injuries that have left them out for any given period of time. 

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The hours these ladies put in to get healthy are moments no fan ever sees, but are of utmost importance when describing the character and commitment that makes up a large chunk of the team's overall personality. In the four years that I have been at Wisconsin I have had my fair share of injuries, and had to rehab to battle my way back into the lineup, but none of these injuries compare to some of the battles I have watched my teammates fight in their own lives away from the rink.

Another area of life discovered when talking with my teammates and getting to know them over the years is something I will call personal hardship. In the words of one of my teammates: "I consider myself really lucky. There are going to be obstacles in your life and you have to overcome them. God has a plan for all of us". 

The personal hardship category is not to put our team in a negative spotlight or for fans to get the idea that this team is composed of a group of misfortunate and heartbroken women; but rather to point out to our fans the fact that this is a team of renowned athletes who work just as hard off the ice as they do on it in order to be the presentable and well rounded women they are today. 

"Being surrounded by such a great group of people everyday is a blessing and makes you realize how special what we have here is." 

The support system our team provides one another is something that words cannot describe. To have 24 people within two miles of you who will be there at any hour of the day for any given reason is something so rare and we are all lucky and blessed to have such compassionate individuals who put others before themselves. 

In fifth grade, a current Badger found out her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, only to learn two weeks later that her father had been diagnosed as well. 

"It was extremely difficult at the time, you learn not to complain about the little things and to value opportunities afforded to you. It's difficult to see other teammates go through it with their families. I think about it daily especially because it's so common, you hear about it more often, but also just because it affected me so heavily at such a young age." 

At age 15, another teammate lost her mother after a 17-month battle with cancer. 

"It sucked, I don't think at any point in your life losing a family member is ever easy, but it was hard being a young teenage girl. I have a lot of other people in my life who have stepped in and filled in a sort of motherly role and helped me out along the way. Some days are harder than others for instance the anniversary of her death, her birthday, and other holidays. People are aware that I find those days harder than most. I am fortunate to have formed some life long friendships with some of my current teammates as well as teammates from other teams I have played on in the past. It is easy for me to talk to those people about anything, including the loss of my mom. I am extremely grateful to be able to play a sport with teammates who are always willing to lend me a shoulder to lean on." 

These, among other difficulties teammates would rather not have shared, are some of the hardships and realities my fellow teammates have overcome in life before and during their Badger careers. The struggle of watching family members battle illness, and the tragedy of dealing with loss are areas of life that the Badger team is well acquainted with. Through these struggles, the women that make up our team have emerged as strong individuals, propelling them to success on the ice and in various outlets of life. The determined nature of my teammates has enabled a number of them to share their experience with others, and also enabled them to appreciate life in a new way, and become a supportive teammate for those around them.

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One final area of life that I wish to unveil about the Wisconsin women's hockey team is in regard to our families. The parents, siblings, and grandparents who are not pictured in highlight films, or typically mentioned in newspaper articles, but are the reason every one of us is where we are today. 

"Just the commitment and support of my family: driving me an hour to and from the rink every day of the week for practice and games, and for allowing me to leave home at the age of 14 to attend a boarding school in another state to pursue my hockey career. Times haven't always been easy financially but they always came through and made ends meet. I could not ask for a more supportive and loving family and I'm very fortunate to have so many people that believe in me and are willing to let me pursue my dreams." 

Family is something that is extremely important in the eyes of my teammates and I.  As previously discussed, we have players who have watched as family members struggle with their health, and also we have players with family members actively serving in the military, players who families struggle to make financial ends meet, and individuals who rarely get to return home except for a few days a year because of distance and commute. There are friendships made on our team that will last a lifetime, long after we hang up our skates for the last time. The overall personality and family that has emerged in our locker room as a result of the shaping of our families back home is remarkable. 

Family is an area of life for the Badgers that is beyond any material value. The financial commitment and the time consuming schedule of the sport our parents allowed us to play at a young age is often difficult for families, but our parents made it work, and because of their sacrifice every one of us is where we are today. Without the love and support of our families none of this would be possible, but also the faith our families had in us from the start. 

Becoming a Division I athlete is no easy task, and that is not to put my teammates or myself on a pedestal and say no common individual can reach this stage, but it is a dream thousands of athletes of various sports have, and is a grueling competition to achieve that final goal. Our families believed in us. They enabled us to have the resources to chase our dreams, and supported us as we failed and succeeded along the way. The parents and support from back home is something that rarely receives credit on any stage of notoriety, but on behalf of my teammates: Thank you to all the parents, siblings, loved ones, and fans who have supported us along the way. The greatest play of any of our careers came the day you made the commitment to allow us to pursue our dreams.

A number of difficult times have been previously mentioned, but as the cliché saying goes, it's the hard days that make the good ones better. The Wisconsin team no doubt has days where someone comes to the rink and finds it difficult to smile because its been a rough go, but for the most part, our lives are filled with days where there are nothing but smiles in the room. The camaraderie and character of the various individuals makes for a great atmosphere, and it is something that I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of and experience first hand for the last four years. 

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As a member of the team, I have met people who have changed my life forever and have learned more about life that I ever could about hockey. My teammates are some of the kindest and most compassionate individuals I have ever encountered, and that is often unseen from the other side of the glass. In one word, to sum up my team, I would say the Wisconsin women's hockey team is relentless. Facing every battle, on and off the ice, with the tenacity and determination that we are always stronger than anything that can happen to us in this life. 

My teammates have taught me lessons I never thought I could learn through my college hockey experience, and it is my hope that through the sharing of some of these stories that the fans will see these women in a new light. I hope after reading this account that fans see them not only as Badger student-athletes but also as strong role models in the community and strong leaders in the future. Like all people in this world, members of this team have deep histories that make up the people they are today. My teammates, no matter where they come from or what they have been through, are outstanding examples of what hard work and the pursuit of a dream can amount to. I hope you enjoyed reading about my team as much as I enjoyed sharing this small piece of our story, and we hope to see you out at LaBahn as we continue on this season in search of our ultimate goal. 

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

-Madison Packer

ON WISCONSIN