The Wisconsin women’s hockey team is starting the season ranked second in the USCHO preseason poll.
The Badgers received one first-place vote but are ranked behind Clarkson, which beat them in the national title game back in March.
Wisconsin was also picked second in the WCHA coaches’ poll that came out last week. Minnesota was chosen as the early favorite in the conference.
It should be an interesting year in women’s college hockey as many of the top teams are without some of their best players, who are centralized with Team USA and Team Canada in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Emily Clark and Annie Pankowski, two of Wisconsin’s three top scorers from last season, will be representing their countries in the Olympics. The Badgers will be without 60 percent of their scoring from last season as they take the ice this year.
Coach Mark Johnson said in the pre-season WCHA conference call that he expects there will be an opportunity for new players to come in and make an immediate impact.
Scoring was, at times, Wisconsin’s Achilles heel last year. The Badgers led the league in team offense, but managed just a single goal in the Frozen Four—an overtime goal from a defenseman. In two-game series against their toughest opponents, they’d struggle to find the net in one game and then rack up the goals in the next.
Another big question for the Badgers is in net. Patty Kazmaier Award winner Ann-Renée Desbiens graduated and is centralized with Team Canada. There are four goalies on the roster: Nikki Cece, Alyson Baldwin, Kristen Campbell, and Breanna Blesi.
Saturday was the first official day of practice and the Badgers also played an exhibition game against the South Korean national team. Transfer Claudia Kepler and Alexis Mauermann each scored two goals for the Badgers.
Wisconsin opens the season against Lindenwood Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for kids, or $7 for a family four-pack.