On-ice competition for No. 1 netminder heating up

first_imgMark Johnson coached the Wisconsin women’s hockey team to its first national championship last season, largely in part to the team’s stellar goaltending. The success of the Badgers’ goalies was often overshadowed and overlooked by the success of Wisconsin’s offensive attack, which outscored opponents 155-51 in the 2005-06 campaign.Their impact, however, cannot be overstated. Sophomore Jessie Vetter, senior Christine Dufour and the newly departed Meghan Horras all competed with each other for playing time, and the multi-goalie system could not have worked out better. There were just four losses among them in the span of 41 games.Johnson employed the system at the start of last season, letting Dufour and Horras split starts each series while Vetter learned and adjusted to college hockey. After Vetter received her first start in January, it became a three-way fight for playing time.The coaching staff, impressed with Vetter’s play, handed more and more starts to Vetter. And Dufour, although she continued to play well, was victim to the hot goaltending of Horras and Vetter.Dufour made just four starts from last December to the end of the season and did not appear in the playoffs. Vetter went on even to claim Horras’ spot during the playoffs and was named the playoffs MVP. She had the start in five of the seven playoff games, including the final game to beat Minnesota for the national title.Johnson is trying that same system again this year, and it seems to be working just as well as it did last season. Vetter and Dufour are now splitting starts every series as freshman Alannah McCready learns, adjusts and waits her turn.”They’ve (Vetter and Dufour) taught me a lot already,” McCready said. “[They’ve taught me] to just keep working hard, that this is much different than high school … and that it’s going to be harder and [you] can’t get down on yourself.”When asked if McCready would get a start in the foreseeable future, Johnson simply said, “Right now, no.”In Vetter’s two victories, she has allowed two goals, both of which came in an 8-2 victory this weekend. And in a statistic that defies logic, Vetter leads the conference in shorthanded points, as she recorded two assists on shorthanded goals scored by the Badgers.Dufour has put up nearly identical numbers as Vetter, although Dufour holds a slightly higher save percentage, and she has also allowed two goals, one in each start.In short, both have performed very well so far this season.”They’re just working on what they’ve been working on up to this point,” Johnson said. “They both work hard in practice and I like the competition between them and they push each other. They’re competing for ice time just like a lot of our players are … what I like up to this point is their work habits.”They’ve both played very well, but we want to make sure they stay involved,” Johnson added. “If for whatever reason we feel that one of them is playing better or matches up better against a particular opponent…then we might make changes.”With the two of them competing for starts, it was a question as to whether the competition could be a distraction. But both players said they believe a little competition can be a good thing.”I’m just working on improving each game,” Vetter said. “[Competing against Dufour] definitely makes you bring your best game … because each game you have to play well, because you never know when you might play again.””We’re both playing really well,” Dufour said. “And we’re both competing against each other, so we have a good relationship.”Both players were quick to give credit to their defense and penalty kill, which has been a key so far this season, particularly in this past series against St. Cloud State. There were a combined 25 penalties between the Badgers and Huskies, resulting in a multitude of powerplay chances for both sides.”We have a very good defense, and a lot of experienced [defenders] coming back,” Vetter said. “They’re doing a very good job of letting us see the puck, and if we don’t, they’re getting rid of any second chance opportunities for the other team.”While most of the attention the Badgers receive will go to big-name players like reigning Player of the Year Sara Bauer or scoring machine Jinelle Zaugg, it’s always important to remember the most crucial, and often most forgotten player on the ice: the one between the pipes.last_img

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