UW coaches provide ‘Miracle on Ice’

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoPerhaps the most overlooked aspect of the Wisconsin women’s hockey team’s success is its renowned coaching staff. The scorers get to rack up the points, the defenders rack up the blocked shots, the goaltenders rack up the saves and wins. And head coach Mark Johnson, on the other hand, gets to provide quotes in addition to many other responsibilities. Johnson is the man who gets to make the final decision, using his experience and instinct to put the best team as possible on the ice while making sure his team is ready to play.As a player for the Badgers, Johnson was the first Badger to win WCHA Rookie of the Year during the 1977 season when Wisconsin won the National Championship. He went on to record 256 points in just three seasons and his 125 goals still stand as a UW record. However, his most memorable accomplishment might be the “Miracle On Ice” during the 1980 Olympics, during which he recorded two goals against the Soviet Union en route to the United States winning the gold medal. Johnson went on to a successful career in the NHL, recording 508 points in 699 games for four different teams.Johnson came back to UW in 1996, when he became an assistant coach for the men’s team. He was named the women’s hockey head coach before the 2002-03 season. Johnson led the team to their first WCHA title and national championship last season, and was rewarded by being named coach of the year.Johnson is responsible for the women’s hockey program becoming one of the elite programs in the nation. Since taking over the women’s hockey team, he has compiled an impressive record of 120 wins, 27 losses and 11 ties, including this season’s 11-0-1 record.”I think the coaching staff is something that goes unnoticed,” senior defender Bobbi-Jo Slusar said. “You really can’t say anything bad about [the coaches]; they come every day and put a lot of time in … I can’t really say enough about our coaches.”The most telling statistic about Johnson’s influence is that the Badgers have set a new record for wins every year he has coached. Last year the Badgers recorded 36 wins, which tied the NCAA record for most wins in a season. Perhaps his most challenging task is keeping his team motivated. While the Badgers are currently riding a 24-game unbeaten streak, Johnson has to be sure they’re prepared and ready to play every weekend. “Johnson is a very experienced person,” Slusar said. “The good thing about him is that he brings a good attitude every day. He’s ready to go and he knows when it’s time to do certain things — when we need to work hard and when we don’t need to work so hard. I think he really recognizes our situation, like if we’re tired he knows what we need to be doing.”Despite Johnson’s strong résumé, the influence of the assistant coaches cannot be overlooked. Tracy Cornell has been an assistant coach with the team since 1999 when the women’s hockey program first started, while Dan Koch started coaching at Wisconsin in 2001. Both have been instrumental in mentoring and recruiting players, building the women’s hockey program into the elite program it is today.”I think with a coaching staff like this, any player in the game could do really well,” freshman forward Meaghan Duggan said. “They’re really good with one-on-one stuff; they come right up to you and tell you what you need to work on.””They bring a positive attitude, [and] that goes a long way, because when I come to the rink I want to have fun,” Slusar said. “And every day I have fun and am having a good time, whether it’s practice or a game, whether we’re winning or losing.”last_img read more