Freshman Annie Pankowski delayed her entry to the University of Wisconsin-Madison a year when she was selected to join the camp of players that would comprise the US Olympic team in 2010. The then-18-year-old was the final player cut before the roster was finalized.
Entering Wisconsin this year with a wealth of fellow freshman talent is likely the most positive outcome of that scenario. Where Wisconsin likely could have used Pankowski's talents on last season's thin team, she's found a niche on a line featuring fellow rookies Emily Clark and Baylee Wellhausen. Though the line was broken up at times during the season, it was reformed and it has been extensively successful.
In September, Pankowski didn't want to dwell too much on her national team experience, choosing instead of focus on how what she learned could be translated into her college career. She wouldn't set a specific goal for herself and the team, saying she just hoped to see an upward trajectory of growth.
There was a lot of attention and therefore pressure early on for Pankowski, who's name had become a fixture in the women's hockey community. Early in the season she was incredibly successful feeding her teammates, piling on assists but the first goal of the season proved elusive for the first few series.
Since then, Pankowski has settled in. They say great players excel and thrive in when the pressure is on. Pankowski showed her potential as a player and as a leader whenshe led the Badgers with two goals in the NCAA quarterfinal last weekend against Boston University. She scored 16 of her 20 goals in the final 22 games of the regular season. Her 20 goals and 42 points lead the team.
Her 1.11 points per game average is tops among all Rookies and good for 16th in the country overall. She scored two hat tricks this season and her 20 goals are tied for sixth most ever by a Badger freshman. She's tied with Hilary Knight.
Pankowski entered the year as the pick for preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year. She matched the hype and took home that award a few weeks ago. Now she's been named National Rookie of the Year in the second year of the award's existence.
From the Wisconsin release on Pankowski's award: The ballot for this award is made up of the conference Rookie of the Year selections. Each program playing NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey receives a ballot, with assistant coaches at each school submitting one ballot per school. The runner-up for this year’s award was Clarkson University’s freshman goaltender Shea Tilley.
Also at the NCAA Awards today, sophomore Jenny Ryan was awarded the NCAA Elite 89 Award.
From the Badger release: The Elite 89, an award founded by the NCAA, recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 89 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships.
Ryan carries a 3.9 GPA while majoring in kinesiology. She is a WCHA Scholar-Athlete and was named to the WCHA All-Academic team.
A defenseman, Ryan has three goals and 19 assists this season. She scored Wisconsin's lone power play goal in the NCAA quarterfinal against Boston University last weekend.
Two other Badgers have earned the award previously - Becca Ruegsegger in 2011 and Carolyne Prévost in 2012.