Freshmen trio leads defense

first_imgWhile it is impressive enough that the Wisconsin women?s hockey team leads the WCHA in goals against average, it is even more impressive they have done so with three freshman defensemen.The three first-year blueliners ? Malee Windmeier, Anne Dronen and Olivia Jakiel ? combined with three upperclassmen have given up an average of just 1.27 goals per game in league play.The freshmen attribute much of their success to the teaching and leadership of the upperclassmen.?The senior and junior defensemen are all great leaders,? Windmeier said. ?They have been really helpful teaching us how to play at this level and showing us what it is to work hard. Most importantly, I think all of the freshman defensemen are a really hardworking group.??Emily (Morris) has made sure that we keep our heads up,? Jakiel said. ?Sometimes freshmen won’t get a lot of playing time, and she has made sure we have a positive attitude. She has taught us to work really hard at practice and to keep pushing each other.?While the scoring numbers for this group may not stand out ? Jakiel only has four points and Dronen has yet to record a point ? these young blueliners excel at their main task: keeping the puck out of the net.?We have a saying on our team,? senior captain Emily Morris said. ?Defensive zone is our house, and it is our job to defend it, so no one should score when we are out there. While it is fun to get a goal once in a while, our primary job as defensemen is to get the puck to our forwards and keep the puck out of our net.?Head coach Mark Johnson believes, however, that the scoring will come with more experience.?We certainly believe that when they gain some experience and develop a little confidence, they will become a part of our offense,? Johnson said. ?That is what we are missing from what we had last year. Our defensemen last year created offense, so as these kids improve and play more, we will ask them to do the same thing.?Windmeier, who played forward for two years in high school, has 11 points on the season and is the freshman defenseman most likely to immediately contribute to the offense.?Malee has been on the power play a little bit, and she has the skills and the talent to contribute on special teams.? Johnson said.To help with offense, the defensemen will need superb conditioning, an area in which all freshmen said they need to improve.?The biggest change from the beginning of the season to now would be my conditioning,? Jakiel said. ?Over the past few months I have gotten stronger, which I needed to do because the game is a lot faster at this level.??We are quite happy with the way that they have progressed, and the big thing is they need to continue with that progression,? Johnson added. ?When they are in the summer and get into their conditioning programs, if they work hard there is going to be a big difference from where they are as freshmen and where they can be as sophomores.?Besides conditioning, each freshman believes he has a specific aspect of his game that he needs to work on.?I need to improve on my stick skills and my shooting,? Dronen said. ?But most importantly, I need to become familiar with how each individual plays on the team, so we can start clicking like the last two national championship teams.?Although each player has a different role, they all share the same attitude about the UW hockey program.?Spending every day with the team is fantastic,? Dronen said. ?You make about 20 best friends in the first week here, and I just couldn?t ask for a better experience.??The program here is fantastic,? Windmeier added. ?Whether it is the coaches or your teammates, everybody just works really hard and has fun, and hopefully we will accomplish our goals.?last_img read more