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GREG DIXON/Herald photoMost college teams don’t get the chance to visit their respective sports’ Hall of Fame, and even fewer are gifted with the opportunity to play under a Hall of Fame inductee. But after their recent trip to Eveleth, Minn., the Badger women’s hockey team can claim both.On Oct. 18, in the inaugural U.S. Women’s Hockey Hall of Fame Game, Wisconsin beat the Bemidji State Beavers 9-0 after spending the morning touring the grounds of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame with head coach and HOF-enshrined Mark Johnson.Senior center and captain Erika Lawler recounted seeing footage of one of Johnson’s most celebrated moments with her teammates.“As we were in there, they had the 1980 ‘Miracle’ video — like the real video, not the movie — playing,” Lawler said. “We were just sitting there until [one of] Coach’s goals came up, and we kind of started a ruckus in there for a little bit.”In addition to scoring two goals in the famous Miracle on Ice game, Johnson assisted the game-winner in the gold-medal game against Finland. Lawler said seeing all of Johnson’s memorabilia reminded them of his impressive resume.“After we left we were like, ‘That’s so funny that our coach is famous,’” Lawler said. “You never would have known he’s a huge part of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s just such a humble man.”Although the team was awestruck by Johnson’s Olympic feats, Johnson downplayed his place in the sport’s history. In fact, according to junior forward Meghan Duggan, while the teammates were celebrating his goal against the Soviets, their coach conveniently was elsewhere.“When he scored in the game we all went crazy,” Duggan said. “Everyone was looking around for him, and he was nowhere to be found — just kind of walking around, checking out other people’s accomplishments. That’s the type of guy he is.”Instead, Johnson reminded the team of how special an experience they were endowed with.“Coach was saying, ‘There’s only one first game,’” Lawler said. “We get to go down in history for that. I think that’s just a tremendous honor. It’s definitely an awesome thing we got to be a part of.”The Hockey Hall of Fame was opened in 1973 and now honors 136 individual members and two Olympic teams, including the aforementioned 1980 squad. Johnson has actually been inducted twice: first, in 2003 as part of the Miracle team, and the year later individually. He joined his late father and former Badger coach, Bob Johnson, who was enshrined in 1991.Senior goaltender Jessie Vetter said it was a special experience, and the team will now have a lasting place in the sport’s history.“We’ll have our little mark in the Hall of Fame now because we played in that first game,” she said. “So that will be pretty cool if we ever get a chance to go back up and take a look at it.”Beyond revisiting the achievements of their coach, Duggan said seeing women’s impact on the game was a unique opportunity.“It was just cool to see some of the old posters from the ’98 Olympics,” Duggan said. “Those (were) girls who pretty much built the program and gave women’s hockey a name and a start for itself.”A week prior to the team’s visit, Catherine “Cammi” Granato became the first woman ever to be enshrined in the HOF. Duggan knows she won’t be the last, however.“There was a lot attributed to women’s hockey in the Hall of Fame,” Duggan said. “I think women’s hockey has come a long way, and I think we have a lot further to go.”
The Wisconsin football team is still in search of its first road win of the season. Come Saturday the Badgers will get their second chance as they prepare to head to New Jersey to take on Rutgers.For the second weekend in a row the Badgers (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) will take on a new conference member, looking to continue their modest two-game winning streak after a 52-7 dismantling of Maryland this past Saturday.But five of UW’s first seven games have come at home and the Badgers have yet to win away from Camp Randall, with Saturday marking their first road game since a trip to Northwestern Oct. 1 for the first conference game of the season.Since the 20-14 loss to the Wildcats, the Badgers have won a pair of games sandwiched around a bye, as the return of redshirt junior quarterback Joel Stave as the starter has helped bolster an offense that struggled through the first five games of the season.After entering in the second quarter of the loss at Northwestern, a game in which he threw three interceptions, Stave hasn’t thrown a pick since and has experienced increased success, including completing the two longest passes of the season against the Terrapins.But heading into the game against the Scarlet Knights (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten), Stave’s progression to becoming the dominant quarterback in a two-quarterback system has not been without hard work.“To have the success that [Stave’s] having and really handling that whole situation, again, there are so many life experiences that these kids … can learn a lot from Joel Stave and his mental toughness and his care factor and his want-to for his team,” head coach Gary Andersen said at his press conference Monday.“I would say he looks great, confident,” Andersen said. “He elbows in where he is and, again, he’s handled this moment, last week, moving forward and all the way through to the about very best of his ability.”Both quarterbacks, Stave and redshirt junior Tanner McEvoy, have had to adjust to a new group of players around them in the offense this season. That adjustment looked like it progressed against Maryland with the two longest passes of the season, both of which went to redshirt junior Alex Erickson and one of which was a touchdown. But outside of Erickson, Stave and McEvoy also spread the ball around to eight other receivers against the Terps, a diversity in the passing game that the Badgers have lacked at points this season.After the Badgers’ second-largest victory of the season against Maryland, Erickson said there have been a lot of factors contributing to his acclimation to the offense, especially for Stave.“It’s just a matter of getting reps in practice,” Erickson said. “Feeling comfortable behind the offensive line again and he was feeling more comfortable. Our receivers of course changed a little bit from last year. So with the turnaround, it takes a little while to get used to throwing to new guys and have confidence in them.”Although the passing game hasn’t had overly flashy numbers in the last two games with just 313 yards between the two wins, the production has provided enough to open up a previously run-only offense. In that time, redshirt junior running back Melvin Gordon has put up 300 rushing yards, as the rushing and passing attacks have begun to compliment one another.Wisconsin will have an opportunity to continue that balance Saturday, as it goes up against a Rutgers’ defense ranked 11th in the Big Ten, allowing almost 430 yards of total offense per game.But the Scarlet Knights’ pass rush, which has accumulated the second-most sacks in the Big Ten this season with 24, could pose a threat for the Wisconsin offensive line which has performed well to this point.“I think we’re pass protecting better, that’s a big part of it,” Andersen said of the Badgers’ blockers who have given up just six sacks this year. “Our ability to take shots down the field is imperative to this offense as we continue to move forward much like it was last year. It showed itself this year to be very much the same and our running backs, Melvin [Gordon], had a couple of tremendous blocks in this game where he lined up with the backs and did a nice job and it’s good to see.”For Wisconsin, the biggest challenge rests in a Rutgers offense ranked sixth in the Big Ten in total offense. Statistically speaking, Rutgers will be the best offense the Badgers have faced this season. However, this past weekend, Wisconsin took on the fifth-best scoring offense in the conference and held the Terrapins to just seven points.The Scarlet Knights could be without starting senior quarterback Gary Nova, too, after he suffered an injury in a loss at Nebraska a week ago, which could hinder their offense that has relied rather heavily on the senior.Regardless of whether it’s Nova directing the offense or redshirt freshman backup Chris Laviano, the Badgers’ top-ranked defense in the conference will be put to the test.“We can be one of the best in the country,” redshirt senior defensive end Warren Herring said. “That’s what we aim for every year and it’s one of our goals to be the best defense in the country. We are continuing to get better every week. We pride ourselves on that.”Although Wisconsin got an all-around effort a week ago in a decisive home win, it will need another balanced effort if it hopes to win its first road game of the season and first in 343 days, dating back to a win at Minnesota Nov. 23 of last season.“The key for us is to have the ability to prepare correctly,” Andersen said. “I think we prepared very well for the road games before. I felt like we were ready to play. We just haven’t won on the road so that’s a big thing for us to be able to get on it and win a football game.”The first-ever meeting between the Badgers and Scarlet Knights is set to kickoff at 11 a.m. from High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.