Youth holding its own

first_imgOn a team filled with offensive superstars, the lesser known can sometimes be forgotten. You might have heard names like Sara Bauer, Bobbi-Jo Slusar and Sharon Cole, but you probably haven’t heard about the freshman contingency that produces night-in and night-out for the 2005-06 Wisconsin women’s hockey team. The No. 4-ranked Badgers (14-2-0, 11-1-0 in WCHA) have enjoyed a fast start, partly due to the emergence of freshmen linemates Tia Hanson and Erika Lawler — the duo are a huge reason why the future is looking bright for UW women’s hockey.Completing the triumvirate on the all-freshman line is WCHA rookie of the week Angie Keseley. The line has proven to be a huge bonus for head coach Mark Johnson’s squad and is producing at a rate he could not have nearly anticipated.We really didn’t have expectations other than the fact we knew they were going to have an opportunity to play,” Johnson said. “Each freshman you deal with is different with the transition from where they played last year to the college game but having all three together on a line makes sense. They seem to get along real well of the ice and that’s part of the reason they’re good on the ice. They communicate and talk to one another and they’re all skilled players.”The trio is not a line that’s going to beat the opposition with their fancy moves or dominating skill; rather they are a hard working line intent on creating quality scoring chances.Lawler, who centers the line, has three goals and seven helpers this season while Hanson and Keseley have added 12 and eight points, respectively, on the year. This past weekend the youngsters combined for four goals and five assists in a thrashing against Bemidji State.”I really enjoy playing on a freshman line, there’s not a lot of pressure and we can just go out (and) do our thing,” Lawler said. “We go out there, work hard every shift and we’ll see how far we can take it.”Keseley had similar words for her linemates.”It’s actually been a great experience,” she said. “Not everyone gets to play on an all-freshman line. We all feed off each other real well and it just works.”The freshman production on offense doesn’t stop with the Lawler line, as the Badgers have also received production from forward Kayla Hagen. Hagen, who hails from Crosslake, Minn., came to Wisconsin after leading the Hibbing Bluejackets to three sectional titles and two runner-up performances at the state championship.In her first season as a Badger, Hagen has benefited from playing alongside senior assistant captain Nikki Burish. Hagen got her only goal of the year against St. Cloud State last month and currently has three points.Defenseman Alycia Matthews represents the only freshman on the blue line. Mathews is a British Columbia native and was a member of the gold-medal winning, under-22 Canadian national team. Skating alongside of her on the national team were current teammates Meaghan Mikkelson, Slusar, Bauer and Hanson. Matthews has good vision on the ice and has four points with a plus-minus rating of plus-four in her young career for the Badgers.”[Matthews] has been battling a few injuries right and just trying to get healthy,” Johnson said. “When she’s in there she’s making plays, doing well and contributing.”Looking for another freshman? Look no further than between the pipes. Redshirt freshman Jess Vetter made her first start of the year last weekend after battling mononucleosis since the start of the season. Vetter made 26 saves in her debut as the Badgers defeated Bemidji State 4-1.Off the ice the freshman class remains close and looks to each other for support and encouragement.”We’re a real close knit group,” Keseley said. “We hang out, get along real well and it’s a really fun class. I’m looking forward to many more years with them.”last_img

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