Top scoring threats flourishing as newly formed line

first_imgPhoto captionMegan Duggan is second on the team in points behind Hilary Knight while just ahead of Brianna Decker.[/media-credit]Individually, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight make up the top three in points and plus/minus for the Wisconsin women’s hockey team. Together, the trio forms the Badgers’ most formidable and productive line, with a combined total of 39 goals, 74 points and a plus/minus of +53.Although Wisconsin left the series against Minnesota Duluth with a 1-1 split last weekend, the Badgers’ top line continued to shine as the group scored all of the team’s goals.But the inception of the line came during the series against Minnesota just two weeks ago when head coach Mark Johnson felt he needed to shake things up.“In Minnesota we found ourselves down a couple of goals, and coach was trying to find something to maybe get the team fired up. He put us together, and I think within the five periods over there that we played together we had about 6 or 7 goals,” said senior captain Meghan Duggan.After the productive weekend in Minneapolis, Johnson decided to stay with the threesome through the series with Robert Morris University and last weekend’s tilts against the Golden Gophers.So far, the decision to stick the three skilled players, who all fall within the top 10 in points in the WCHA, together has paid off, as the unit already appears comfortable with one another.“Meghan and Brianna are some of the best forwards in the nation right now, and I think playing with them and just feeding off of their energy and their skills makes anybody who is the third player on their line better,” said junior Hilary Knight.The one player that Knight forgot to mention in that short list was herself, as the accomplished right winger has turned into one of the most feared offensive threats in the country.Aside from her physical presence on the ice, one aspect of Knight’s game prevails as the most intimidating.“She has a great shot; she shoots like a guy I think,” sophomore Brianna Decker said.But the line’s success does not draw wholly from Knight’s offensive prowess.Decker and Duggan, Wisconsin’s top two assist leaders, pass the puck well, which facilitates the unbridled scoring.Decker, who actually leads the team in assists (14), remains impressed with the unselfishness and talent Duggan exudes game in and game out.“She really can set up plays and she can see people open. Her passing is great, and she can just weave the puck through people’s sticks and hit any player that she wants to,” Decker said.For the last four years, Knight and Duggan have not only played with one another as members of the Wisconsin Badgers, but also as a part of the United States national team (including last year’s appearance at the Olympics).But the history between Duggan and Knight ventures beyond college and international hockey. The two Badgers played one another in high school in a prep school league in New Hampshire.Although for the amount of experience the two Olympians have as competitors and as team mates, Johnson’s decision to put the two together marks the first time they have played on the same line.At the beginning of the season when Johnson coupled Decker together with Duggan and then eventually added Knight to the mix two weeks ago, Decker was intimidated by the prospect of playing with two of the country’s best talents.“They were in the Olympics, and I think that their skill level is so high. It really challenges me to keep up with them and try to be as good as them,” Decker said.Something that may have assuaged Decker’s original intimidation of playing with Duggan and Knight, however, is the fact that she was asked to play for the national team herself at the 4 Nation Cup in early November of this year.Duggan has already determined that the young scorer has great ability, and with the right work ethic, it’s clear Decker can achieve great things in her hockey career.“The couple of weeks she had with the national team, she just was unbelievable. I’m excited for her, definitely, and where she’s going to go in the future. I think she is an outstanding hockey player, probably one of the best I have seen in a while,” Duggan said.Even though Decker, Duggan and Knight have only played together in less than six games as a line, it is clear that the Badgers are likely to score a lot of goals in the coming weeks with their top players banded together.It’s up to the rest of the league to try and keep up.last_img read more