6. Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker, University of Wisconsin
LAST SEASON: Knight: 47 goals, 34 assists for 81 points in 41 games. Decker: 34 goals, 46 assists for 80 points in 41 games.
|Sept. 29||Ryan Callahan|
Teams don’t win four national championships in six years without serious talent. Led by 1980 Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Johnson, the University of Wisconsin gushes with premier hockey players.
Yes, the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, Meghan Duggan, and other critical pieces of last year’s championship team have moved on. But the one-two punch of Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight will haunt goalies’ dreams for another season.
WCHA followers, Wisconsinites and statisticians certainly know their names. You should, too.
Knight, a senior from Sun Valley, Idaho, is already the school’s all-time career leader in goals scored. She was a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalist as a sophomore. Barring serious injury, Knight should once again make that list – if not top it. She also scored the overtime game-winner against Canada in the 2011 IIHF World Women’s Championships to clinch the Gold Medal for Team USA. Knight was the youngest member of the 2010 U.S. Women’s Olympic team. The point-producing forward was chosen by WCHA coaches as the conference Preseason Player of the Year.
Decker, a junior from Dousman, Wis. was the only other player selected by coaches for the preseason award, and for good reason. With 80 points in 41 games as a sophomore, her numbers were almost identical to Knight’s. She is also a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
For the fourth time since 2006, the Badgers begin a season with the task of defending an NCAA championship. While that's a cherished burden to be sure, it comes with all sorts of challenges – chief among them snuffing out any sense of self-interest.
"If we have it, we're going to take care of it quickly," senior winger and captain Hilary Knight said.
"If it's in place," UW coach Mark Johnson said, "then we have to stop that right away."
Their motives are rooted in a simple reality: The Badgers have enough key pieces to win it all again.
The Badgers sit at No. 1 in all the polls, which comes as no surprise. Preseason rankings rarely end up accurate. But when it comes to Wisconsin women’s hockey, we’ll take their word for it.