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Wisconsin women’s hockey: UW welcomes two new players for 2021 season

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Transfer defensemen Kendra Nealey and freshman Sophie Helgeson are the two newest members of the defending champs.

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey Championship Photo by Justin Berl/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

There has been a lot of player movement in college athletics with many seniors taking advantage of their “COVID year” to play an additional season, sometimes at an entirely new school. The Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team was not immune to change as forward Dara Greig and defender Teagan Grant put their names into the transfer portal earlier this offseason.

The defending national champs do have reinforcements on the way, however. UW announced on Friday that the team was welcoming two new defensemen for the 2021 season, freshman Sophie Helgeson and Cornell grad transfer Kendra Nealey.

Per UW Badgers, Helgeson was a two-time all-state selection while playing for the Roseau (Minn.) Rams and led the team to the consolation state title game during her junior season. Helgeson posted a career-high 36 points her senior season in only 21 games after recording 30 her junior season.

If her last name sounds familiar to Wisconsin hockey fans, it is because her father Jon played for the men’s hockey team from 1987-92 and was a part of UW’s 1990 NCAA championship team.

Nealey, who was unable to play hockey last season due to the Ivy League not participating in any sports, is returning home to Madison for her final season of eligibility. “I’m delighted to become a Badger,” Nealey said. “I’m excited to work with some of the best coaches, play with an elite team and be surrounded by the support of such an enthusiastic fan base.”

Per Todd Milewski of the Wisconsin State Journal, Nealey grew up in Shorewood Hills and played with the West Madison Polar Caps, the Wisconsin Ice Spirit and the Madison Capitols before her family moved to Chicago when she was 13. Her parents recently moved back to Fitchburg.

A three-time ECAC All-Academic honoree, Nealey registered 11 assists during the shortened 2019-20 season for Cornell and blocked 33 shots. She recorded 12 assists during the 2018-19 season and ranked second on the team with 52 blocked shots. As a freshman, Nealey had seven points from five goals and two assists and had a .156 shooting percentage.

“UW has a winning tradition that I am excited to be a part of,” Helgeson said. “In addition, the school has excellent academics and a beautiful campus.”