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Wisconsin Badgers second in preseason women’s college hockey rankings

September 17, 2018

The University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team will start the season at No. 2 in the national rankings.

The Badgers were second behind defending national champion Clarkson in the preseason USCHO.com Division I women’s poll released Monday.

It was the second straight season that the Badgers were behind the top-ranked Golden Knights in the initial poll of 15 coaches and media members.

UW, which starts the season Sept. 28-29 against Lindenwood at LaBahn Arena, was No. 1 in 18 of the 22 USCHO.com polls last season before falling to Colgate in double overtime in the Frozen Four semifinals.

The Badgers finished third in the rankings last season, behind Clarkson and Colgate.

The high expectations for the Badgers are born out of a strong crew returning from last season, the addition of two players who missed the 2017-18 campaign while preparing for the Olympics and a talented incoming class.

Forwards Emily Clark and Annie Pankowski are back from Olympic centralization last season — Clark played in the Pyeongchang Games for Canada while Pankowski wasn’t selected for the U.S. team.

Each was selected to participate in her country’s fall evaluation camp last week along with six other Badgers players.

Defensemen Mikaela Gardner, Maddie Rolfes and Natalie Buchbinder and forwards Sophia Shaver joined Pankowski in the U.S. camp. Forward Sophie Shirley was with Clark at Canada’s evaluation.

Shirley is one of the most promising newcomers the Badgers have had in recent years, combining remarkable speed with a scorer’s touch.

UW didn’t get any first-place votes in the preseason poll. Clarkson took 14, while No. 4 Boston College was atop one ballot.

Clarkson brings back its top three scorers, including Patty Kazmaier Award top-three finalist Loren Gabel, and added two key transfers in goaltender Kassidy Sauve and forward T.T. Cianfarano.

Sauve backstopped Ohio State to the Frozen Four last season, where the Buckeyes were defeated by Clarkson in the semifinals. Cianfarano was the ECAC Hockey player of the year at Quinnipiac in 2016.

Minnesota, which gets three players back from an Olympic-year redshirt, was third in the rankings. Among other Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams in the poll, Ohio State was seventh and Minnesota Duluth was ninth.

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