Freshman Mikaela Gardner joins fellow US U-18 Women's National Teammate Sophia Shaver and Canada U-18 Women's National Team member Sam Cogan in the Badgers' newest class.
Gardner comes with an accomplished and decorated background. She won gold at the 2015 IIHF U-18 Women's World Championships. She won the U-19 club national championship with the Chicago Mission. The team had won the state and regional titles the previous two season, but had only placed third nationally. She was also selected as the 2014 Detroit Bauer World Invite MVP for her age group.
She's the only defenseman among the incoming freshman and will need to find a space on the blue line with established talent in Courtney Burke and Jenny Ryan.
On transitioning to college life
The easiest was coming in the summer for a good eight weeks and we trained and skated with the team every day. It helped transition in the season. Now you’re used to everything. You have the routine down with skating and training. We took two classes, which helped us practice balancing everything. It’s a harder balancing act (in the Fall semester). The hardest part is managing my schedule. On the ice, the speed. It’s not a huge, huge difference. You have to speed up the process of your thinking and what you want to do. You have to make your mind up just that much sooner. It takes a bit getting used to. Not turning over the puck - you have to be able to make smart, quick decisions.
On the pressure of being a freshman and needing to have an immediate impact
There's pressure, but there isn’t at the same time. For me, it’s just "do what you do." You can’t play to other people’s standards. If you play how you play, if you play to your potential, it takes a lot of pressure of yourself. There’s pressure, but we have the whole team behind us. I have to just play my game and I can’t worry about trying to do too much. I just have to do what I do and it will work out.
At Wisconsin, Frozen Four and National Championships are always the end game, but what are the other goals for the season?
I’m excited to play with (these girls). There’s so much talent on this team and years of experience, with college and international play. I’m learning from them and picking up the little things that they do. Improving as a player. Playing with them (helps me) step up my game and being around the speed and skill (of my teammates) will make me a better player. I just want to improve all around.