Feb. 25, 2011
The goaltender represents the last line of defense for a hockey team. When an opposing forward intercepts a pass at center ice and heads towards the net on a breakaway, the team’s faith falls on the extremely padded shoulders of the goalie.
Other players might say they don’t want the pressure that comes with that responsibility or that they would rather be the ones scoring goals. But goalies make up a unique breed of hockey players.
“I think they’re in their own little world,” said sophomore forward Brianna Decker. “They’re the ones trying to save the pucks, and everyone else is trying to put them in. It’s kind-of everybody against them.”
Feeling like everyone is out to beat you, which is often the case for a goalie, can be a difficult challenge to face day in and day out.
“It’s such a different position than any of us play,” said senior forward Meghan Duggan. “For most of the game, they’re sitting down there in the net all by themselves, so they have to do things and think of things to keep themselves focused.”
Yet freshman Alex Rigsby, sophomore Becca Ruegsegger and redshirt sophomore Nikki Kaasa, the three players that make up Wisconsin’s goaltending team, seem to handle the pressure just fine.
“It takes someone special and unique to be a goalie,” Ruegsegger said. “I take it as a compliment. You are who you are, and I’m honored to have two goalie partners that are those types of people and those goalies.”
The term “goalie partner” is one the three made up as a nickname for each other.
“G.P., goalie partner. They’re always calling each other that,” Duggan said. “I think their relationship is great, and they seem like they have a great time.”
Rigsby, Ruegsegger and Kaasa each care about doing well in practice and earning the starting spot in goal for the upcoming series. But, at the same time, they also care just as much that the other two play well.
“While we’re trying to compete with each other for the starting job, we’re still happy for whoever goes out that night,” said Kaasa. “It’s kind-of a goalie’s world that we have. It’s a neat trifecta for us.”
Each member of the “trifecta” started playing goalie for different reasons. For Kaasa, the inspiration came from her oldest brother, who was also a goaltender.
“My parents actually let me try goalie thinking I would hate it,” Kaasa remembered. “It’s kind-of unusual for a person to want to get stuff thrown at them all the time.”
Ruegsegger’s story started in a similar way, as she also attributes her playing goalie to her brother.
“My brother is a center and when we were younger he used to shoot on me in the basement, so I didn’t have any real choice with that,” Ruegsegger said. “He would just say, ‘Yep, here are the pads, let’s go.’”
Rigsby’s start in goal came a little more naturally. When she started playing hockey in first grade, her team didn’t have one specific goalie. Instead, they relied on all of the players to rotate playing in goal.
“The first time I went in the net, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “After that, I was constantly asking the coaches if I could play goalie and volunteering myself.”
Now the three goalie partners are playing college hockey, something that they all admit was their ultimate goal.
“Even when I was little,” Rigsby remembered, “I was constantly thinking about it in the back of my mind.”
This season, the Badgers’ goalies have combined for 1.69 goals against average with a .919 save percentage. Besides their talent, some have attributed their success to the way they support each other both on and off the ice.
“They’re very supportive regardless of who’s playing,” Decker said. “It’s a tough position, and it’s great that they have such a good relationship.”
Each week in practice the three goalies have to compete with each other and show that they are the best and deserve to start in goal. That competition, however, doesn’t affect their relationship. According to Kaasa, the three of them have a great dynamic this year, which she admits isn’t always the case among competing goalies.
“We all get along really well,” said Rigsby. “And we’re always trying to push each other and feed off each other.” While that type of mentality is common amongst all players on the ice, goalies are still in a league of their own.
“Like I said, it’s a completely different game than what we do,” said Duggan. “I just think it’s a different business for them back there.”
UW Athletic Communications