Women’s hockey: Badgers head west to start 2015-16 campaign

first_imgAs the summer becomes a distant memory, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team heads west to start the season.With the calendar marching toward October, the realities of fall are setting in, and the Badgers are ready for the autumnal awakening. The end of September means the beginning of a long journey for head coach Mark Johnson and his team.Entering his 14th season at the helm, Johnson was optimistic about the start of the regular season, he said at his news conference Monday afternoon.“We have been practicing for eight or 10 days, and certainly as a coaching staff excited about the way the players came back in to start school,” Johnson said. “They spent the summer working out, conditioning and are in a good place right now, so the fun part is to get ourselves organized for game week.”Coming off a successful season that saw UW bested by Minnesota in the Frozen Four, the Badgers enter the season younger and with minutes to fill. This poses a challenge for Johnson and his staff, but the early indications look positive.“We have everybody except one of our incoming freshman able to spend the summer here, and it showcases it,” Johnson said. “They took that seriously, put themselves in a position to start the season in a good place.”With a large youth movement, the Badgers will look for a veteran presence to lead them. To guide the relatively inexperienced squad, Johnson has tapped senior Courtney Burke as captain.To open the season, the Badgers will ditch the surprisingly cooperative Madison weather this week and instead fly to San Jose, California, to prepare for their season opening showcase series against Providence.UW faces off at 9 p.m. Friday night and will make the quick turnaround for their final tilt against the Friars at 5 p.m. Saturday.The trip to the West Coast offers the Badgers the chance to not only get their feet wet as a unit, but to act as ambassadors for women’s hockey. Johnson was excited for the exposure players like Annie Pankowski — a Laguna Hills, California native — will receive.“A lot of young players look up to her, and I’m sure she is going to need a few [tickets],” Johnson said.Instead of flying back to Madison right away, the team will remain in the Golden State until Sunday to put on a youth clinic for girls in San Jose and the surrounding areas.“It gives the players a chance to show some of the tips that got them to be a Division I player to these young kids,” Johnson said. “And hopefully it inspires them to continue with their careers and maybe one day get the opportunity to play college hockey.”last_img

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