Current, former Badgers gain valuable experience with Four Nations Cup

first_imgWith an off-weekend for most of the Wisconsin women’s hockey team, it has been an enjoyable past few days for head coach Mark Johnson and his players. While the team is still working hard, practice pace is a little slower, more jokes fly around, players flash smiles on the ice and a general easiness surrounds LaBahn Arena.However, almost 2,000 miles away, select Badgers are playing their absolute hardest for their respective countries as the 2014 Four Nations Cup gets underway. Wednesday night, the United States took on Canada, with five players representing University of Wisconsin. Among the Badgers taking part in the tournament are senior captain Blayre Turnbull and freshman Emily Clark, playing for Canada, along with freshman forward Annie Pankowski, playing for the United States.These players find themselves teammates for most of the year, but will face off against each other in a border battle that always breeds fierce competition. The United States-Canada rivalry has grown extremely fierce in recent years on both the men’s and women’s sides. Canada has bested the United States in the past two Olympic women’s hockey finals, and many American players feel the need to finally win on the international stage. Former Badgers Hilary Knight, Alex Rigsby and Brianna Decker will lead the United States in the tournament.Despite the intensity this rivalry brings, Johnson is not worried that the competition will cause any divide amongst Badgers of Canadian and American heritage.“[The Canadian and American players] have been in camps together, or on the same team, whether they were growing up or at respective colleges like here,” Johnson said. “Once the puck drops and Canada is playing the United States, Clark and Pankowski are going to do things to help their respective teams and if they bump into each other, that’s just part of hockey. When the game is over and they’re flying back they’re teammates again, friends again.”Johnson touched on the strong bond his players have, which he believes a national team game can’t break. Instead of worrying about possible tensions that could arise from such a fierce rivalry, Johnson created a program in which no such rivalry can break the camaraderie. He has no reason to worry, and instead commends his players for their hard work and skills.“That’s the fun part of competing at this level,” Johnson said. “You have the chance to play for your country and, uniquely, you get a chance to play against one of your teammates, and it is quite an experience.”Regardless of whichever nation finds victory, the Badgers can only benefit from sending players to compete at the international level. Which could be just the spark the team needs after a slightly disappointing series this past weekend at North Dakota.The Badgers tied 3-3 against UND last Friday and squeaked out a 3-2 win Saturday to finish the series. Leading goal-scorer Brittany Ammerman tallied her fifth and sixth goals of the season and Sarah Nurse scored twice. While many offensive leaders are playing well, one statistic stands out among the rest.The Badgers outshot UND 40-21 Friday and 31-17 Saturday, prompting one to question why each game ended so closely when the Badgers heavily outshot their opponents. As Johnson pointed out, there is a very rational conclusion. With Pankowski, Clark and Turnbull all missing due to the Four Nations Cup, the Badgers were missing some major points and morale leaders on the ice, showing just how invaluable they are to the team.Another point to be taken away, as Johnson explained, is the added depth the Badgers have this year.“Under the circumstances, I thought we played very well,” Johnson said. “We were missing three of our top forwards on Friday, four on Saturday, so we had a gutty effort and came away with a tie and a win. I was very pleased.”The Badgers depth was on display against No. 1o North Dakota, which could mean big things for Wisconsin as the season progresses. When Turnbull, Pankowski and Clark return to Madison with their invaluable experience, Wisconsin’s depth will only increase. The offensive production should follow closely behind.last_img

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