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Familiar faces, young talent providing scoring spark

first_imgHead Coach Mark Johnson knew it would be more of a challenge for the Wisconsin women’s hockey team to score goals this year. After netting 170 goals in 38 games last year, the Badgers lost 62 of those scores in the form of departing players. Everyone, especially the freshmen, had to step up their game and produce goals. Through the season’s first five games, the team has done exactly that.Wisconsin hasn’t missed a beat from last season, when the team averaged around 4.5 goals per game. This year’s squad is averaging four goals per game, with 18 goals in the past four games. The team has done well to replace their former teammates, especially the freshmen, who have used their speed and enthusiasm to make up for the lack of college playing experience. New Badgers Angie Keseley, Erika Lawler and Tia Hanson have stepped in nicely, combining to tally 10 points in their first five games of collegiate play.However, a key part of goal production this year has come from a pair of familiar faces, junior Sara Bauer and senior Sharon Cole. The two play on the same line and feed off of each other’s skill. The duo had a pretty passing exchange that resulted in a goal for Cole against Vermont and another great play when Cole scored off another feed from Bauer against Minnesota State last weekend. Bauer, a prolific goal scorer, has already collected 10 points in only five games this season. Cole, the team captain, has recorded six points thus far. “We’ve played together for a while, so we know how each other plays and works position-wise,” Cole said of her playing with Bauer. “I think we just compliment each other well with passing and getting [the puck] on net.”The freshmen have also stepped up to provide a reliable source of goals. Lawler, who stands at only five feet tall, uses her speed to disrupt defenses and create scoring opportunities and breakaways. She has collected three points in the season, scoring her first goal of the season in the opening series against Minnesota-Duluth. She has created numerous scoring chances for herself and her teammates, although a goal against Minnesota State was taken away due to the net being knocked out of position.Freshmen forwards Hanson, Keseley and Kayla Hagen have also all seen significant playing time and have performed well. Hanson and Keseley created a two-player breakaway last Saturday against Minnesota State, with Hanson scoring in the third period to give the Badgers a 3–1 lead.”The freshmen are doing well,” Johnson said. “They’re still getting their feet wet in regards to college hockey and getting used to being a college student … but I like the team we have and the offensive chances we’re creating.”One negative aspect of the Badgers’ offense is the lack of production from the powerplay. The Badgers were 0-for-7 on the powerplay Saturday against Minnesota State and are just 1-for-15 in the past three games.However, Johnson isn’t worried about the powerplay just yet. He knows that it’s difficult at first for the players to read each other and anticipate what their teammates will do. This is especially true with the special teams units, where it takes time for a squad to come together. Johnson is confident that this will happen with time.”We were 0-for-7 up at Mankato, and that’s something that we have to work on … some people have to get used to one another and the chemistry has to develop,” Johnson said. “We did some pretty good things (on the powerplay), we just didn’t score. We got the puck in (the offensive zone) and moved it around pretty well … we’ll work on the powerplay tomorrow (in practice) quite a bit and get the girls ready for Friday afternoon … so we should be able to create more scoring chances.”The Badgers will face the North Dakota Fighting Sioux Friday at 2:07 at the Kohl Center. Like last week’s matchup against Minnesota State, the team expects another tough physical battle this weekend.”You can expect a physical battle out of all the WCHA teams, everybody wants to get that conference win,” Cole said. “Especially against us; we have pretty good speed so teams tend to be physical to slow us down.”last_img read more