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Saige Pacholok has only missed four games this season, but boasts a plus- 22 on the ice combined with 32 blocked shots. Pacholok only has three points this season on one gaol and two assists.[/media-credit]While the UW women’s hockey team has the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s best scoring offense to hang its hat on, it also boasts a stingy defense that will be a crucial piece on its journey to repeat as NCAA champions.Despite giving up a season high-four goals on Saturday to Ohio State, the Badgers’ defense normally doesn’t make life easy for opposing teams. The team has the No. 2 scoring defense in the WCHA with 50 goals allowed and a penalty kill percentage of 88.6 percent, good for first in the conference.Sophomore defenseman Kelly Jaminski, who has played in all 34 games this season, attributes the defense’s success to the depth and chemistry of the squad.“We have depth on defense, which is great, and we all have really great chemistry as a defensive unit,” Jaminski said. “To have the extra help with the girls that we have when we are all healthy really helps.”The Badgers boast nine defensemen on their roster, all of whom have played in at least 20 games this season.The defense’s depth became more pronounced Feb. 11, as junior defenseman Stefanie McKeough returned to the depth chart at St. Cloud after being sidelined by an injury since the end of January.Head coach Mark Johnson is happy to have McKeough back in the lineup and is equally pleased with the play of the defense through the regular season, crediting the play of the entire team with its defensive success.“It was good to get her back and get her in tune with her game,” Johnson said. “Certainly she has been a big part of our success, so to have her back is a real bonus.“Usually when you have good defense, it’s a combination of a team effort: the forwards’ willingness to back check, the defensemen doing a lot of little things right and the consistency at the goaltender position.”Along with the chemistry and depth that the defense has in its arsenal, most of the defensemen have the experience of playing the best teams and on the biggest stages in women’s hockey. Seven of the nine current defensemen were on the roster on the championship team last year.The experience from last year’s success plays as an advantage for the Badgers going into this year’s playoffs.“Playing against the top girls like Boston University was great for us,” Jaminski said. “The experience has definitely carried over this year. We know what it takes and how hard we have to work.”Wisconsin is coming off a rare loss against Ohio State this past Saturday, a game where the team gave up four goals – tied for the most they have given up all season.Junior defenseman Saige Pacholok said she hopes that the loss will give them something to build off of going into the playoffs this coming weekend.“I think [the loss] will humble us a little bit,” Pacholok said. “I think it kind of wakes us up and says we have to work hard for every game and be ready for every game.”Wisconsin kicks off the postseason this weekend with a best-of-three series against Minnesota State.With only three wins this year, Minnesota State sits in last place in the WCHA. The Mavericks have lost to the Badgers four times this season by a combined 17 goals.After giving up only three goals in those four games to MSU, the Badger defense hopes to keep up their success against the Mavericks this weekend. Pacholok, however, knows it won’t be easy.“In the playoffs, people will be coming a lot harder,” Pacholok said. “[Minnesota State] will be playing for their lives this weekend.”While the outstanding play of the defense this year may have been overshadowed by the Badgers’ high-powered offensive attack and the great season that Alex Rigsby is having tending goal, the defensive unit doesn’t mind being the unsung heroes of the team.“They always say if you’re not noticed as a defense, that’s probably a good thing,” Pacholok said. “That means we are doing our job and taking care of the puck. It’s great that we don’t have too much of the spotlight. We are strong as a core, and that is all that matters to be successful.”