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Mark Johnson looks to climb the mountain again with Wisconsin

Mark Johnson looks to climb the mountain again with Wisconsin
Mark Johnson has coached the Badgers to six NCAA championships, with the last one coming in 2021. (Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn USA TODAY Sports)

MADISON, Wis. (BVM) The UW-Madison women’s hockey team is one of the most dominant programs in all of college sports over the last 20 years, thanks to head coach Mark Johnson. After coming off a disappointing 2021-22 campaign, the Badgers will be looking to come back strong with a lot of new faces to help get back to the Frozen Four. 

Johnson is one of the most famous names in all of hockey. During his time as a player, he was a star on the famous “Miracle on Ice” team. He scored two of Team USA’s four goals in the win against the Soviet Union during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. He would go on to have a very successful career in the NHL. All this experience eventually led him to taking on the role of head coach at UW-Madison in the 2002-03 season. 

Though his first two seasons were considered unsuccessful as his Badger team failed to reach the NCAA tournament, Johnson was able to quickly turn the team around and go on to win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007. These championships represented the start of one of the most dominant coaching runs in all of college sports.  Johnson’s great coaching was also highlighted in the Winter Olympics this past year, as there were 11 former or current Badger players on the U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey teams.

Fast forward to 2022, and Johnson is now the winningest coach in the history of college women’s hockey, with a 565-103-51 record. This includes a record six NCAA championships as a coach, with the last one coming in 2021. His consistency as a coach has brought him the top recruits from across the country year after year. His skill at recruitment has been a huge reason why the Badgers are regularly considered a favorite to be a national champion.

Looking back to last season, Wisconsin ranked top five in nearly every statistical category. They finished with the fifth best record, while also being fourth in goals, assists, and scoring differential. Johnson’s coaching style has been one of discipline and hard work, which is represented by the team finishing No. 1 in the country in least time spent in the penalty box.

Unfortunately for the Badgers, they lost a lot of star power due to aging out of the collegiate field and the transfer portal. 

Their top goal scorer, Darryl Watts who ranked fifth in scoring in the nation, graduated. Kennedy Blair, who ranked third in the nation in shutouts as a goalie, was another player who graduated from the team. Brette Pettet, ranked fifth in faceoff wins, aged out from the Badgers as well. The Badgers top assist leader Makenna Webster transferred to defending National Champions Ohio State.

A lot of team members have moved on throughout the offseason, but there are still big expectations for the 2022-23 season. Wisconsin still has 15 returning players from last season, along with seven recruits. 

The recruits, who will be vital in replacing all the lost talent for the Badgers, chose Wisconsin because of what Johnson and the entire coaching staff has to offer. 

“It has amazing facilities and a beautiful campus and hockey-wise the coaching is incredible”, said Kristen Simms, upcoming freshman from Michigan

Johnson speaks very highly of every recruit, citing great individual talent from each player that will hopefully gel into a very successful team. The Badgers were also able to soften the blow of losing so many great seniors by adding Jesse Compher, a BU transfer, who will slide into the place of Brianna Decker and Brette Pennet at the center position. Compher won just over 61% of faceoffs as a senior last season. She also has Olympic experience, after taking the place of Brianna Decker following Decker’s injury in the first game of Olympic play. 

This new-look Badger team has unlimited potential and with Mark Johnson at the helm once again, a championship seems like a possibility for the UW 2022-23 team.

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