The 10 Best Wisconsin Badgers Women's Ice Hockey Players Ever

Mark Staffieri@@MarkStaff100Contributor IISeptember 2, 2012

The 10 Best Wisconsin Badgers Women's Ice Hockey Players Ever

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    Since head coach Mark Johnson arrived in 2002, the Wisconsin Badgers have become synonymous with winning.

    Boasting four Patty Kazmaier Award winners, six Frozen Four appearances, and four NCAA championships, the Badgers have become one of the model programs in the nascent history of NCAA women's ice hockey.

    With success also come the legends who helped build that legacy. Here are the following players that are the 10 best to have suited up for the Wisconsin Badgers.

Honorable Mention: Meghan Hunter

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    On Nov. 23, 2003, Hunter tied Kendra Anthony as the all-time leading scorer with 159 points. One of the first-ever superstars in Badgers history, Hunter was a First Team All-WCHA twice, while being named Second Team All-American. 

    The 2000-01 WCHA Rookie of the Year, her freshman year was one to remember. The NCAA scoring champion (with 42 goals and 36 assists), she was the only rookie named as a finalist for the 2001 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

    Although Hunter's scoring record has since been broken, Hunter graduated with 177 career points. Having played most of her Badgers career for Trina Bourget, she is a link to the early days of the Badgers program.

10: Jinelle Zaugg

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    A cornerstone of two NCAA Frozen Four championships, Jinelle Zaugg would register 89 goals and 77 assists. In her first Frozen Four championship, Zaugg scored two goals in the championship game to earn All-Tournament team honors.

    Her final year at Wisconsin was commemorated by being named the team captain. Today, an award bears her name and is awarded to a female ice hockey player from a Wisconsin prep school in recognition of the Overall Offensive Player of the Year.

9: Carla MacLeod

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    A Badgers player from 2001 to 2005, MacLeod was one of the best defenders to man the blue line. She was recognized as a two-time second team AHCA All-American, and Mark Johnson compared her leadership style to that of a playing coach. One of the biggest honors of her career came when she was given the Wisconsin Big Ten Medal of Honor.

    In her junior and senior seasons, she was the Badgers captain and was a key reason the Badgers qualified for their first-ever NCAA tournament in 2005. Her four career short-handed goals still rank in the Badgers career Top 10.

8: Erika Lawler

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    At 4'11", Lawler has the heart and soul of someone 10 feet tall. An inspirational player, she was the captain of the Badgers and a three time NCAA Frozen Four champion.

    Having appeared in 163 contests with the Badgers, she set the Badgers record for most assists in one season (since broken). With 174 career points, Lawler was the spark plug for a dominant Badgers offense.

    Her finest legacy with the team may be the back-to-back Badger Awards that she won, in recognition of the Most Inspiring Player on the Team.

7: Brooke Ammerman

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    As a freshman, she appeared in 40 games and enjoyed a four-goal game vs. the Syracuse Orange. It would signify that there were greater moments to come.

    During her sophomore season (2009-10), she was named the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year. Ammerman would lead the team in scoring that year with 38 points, respectively.

    A second NCAA Frozen Four title would come with her junior season. While her 46 points would have led almost any other team in the NCAA, she ranked fourth on the championship squad as she was named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team for the first time.

    In her senior season, she was on the top line with Brianna Decker and Carolyne Prevost. Her 74 points ranked second behind Decker. A member of the NCAA 200-point club, Ammerman was the fourth Badger to reach the milestone.

6: Sara Bauer

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    The first Wisconsin player to reach the NCAA 200-point club, Sara Bauer was the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2006. The final honor of her career would be the Most Outstanding Player Award at the 2007 NCAA Frozen Four.

    A member of the WCHA All-Decade Team, she was selected by the Brampton Thunder in the 2012 CWHL draft, as Bauer looks to make a comeback.

5: Alex Rigsby

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    Having played only two seasons of Badgers hockey, she already ranks third all-time in wins with 60. Her career saves mark is 1,631, and is clearly on pace to shatter Jackie MacMillan's Badger record of 2,527 saves. During the 2011-12 campaign, she made 1,044 saves in one season, a new Badgers record.

    The 2011-12 WCHA Goaltending Champion is poised to break the all-time NCAA goaltending record for most wins by Hillary Pattenden. As a freshman, Rigsby started 30 games and won 27 of them. She followed it up by playing in 40 games as a sophomore and winning an astounding 33.

    Rigsby is no stranger to making history. Drafted by the Chicago Steel in the 2009 USHL draft, she became the first female drafted in the league. Having played with the United States national team at the Under-18 and Under-22 levels, Rigsby has a bright future ahead.

4: Brianna Decker

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    The 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, she averaged 2.10 points per game during the 2011-12 campaign. She beat out Jocelyne Lamoureux for the 2011-12 WCHA Offensive Player of the Year Award.

    In her freshman season, the first goal of her career was also the first goal of the entire season for the Badgers, a sign that more greatness would follow. The Badgers Rookie of the Year Award winner, she was also a two time All-America selection.

    Having played for the United States at the Under-18 and Senior level, she will compete for a spot at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. A member of the NCAA 200-point club, Decker has one year left with the Badgers, in which she aims to become the program's all-time leading scorer.

3: Meghan Duggan

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    The third Wisconsin player to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, Duggan set the Badgers single-season record for most points in a season with 86. During the 2010-11 season, she was the first Badgers player to reach 100 career goals, and 100 career assists. She graduated as the Badgers all-time leading scorer (since broken) with 238 points.

    In 2011, she would earn many more accolades including the 2011 WCHA Player of the Year, the WCHA Scoring Title, First Team All-America honors, and the Big Ten Outstanding Sportsmanship Award. The year would culminate with Duggan earning the Bob Allen Award, given to the best women's hockey player in the United States.

2: Hilary Knight

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    Knight is in very elite company as she is one of the few players to have competed in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game in every season of her career. Having won the championship in 2009 and 2011, Knight is one of the few Badgers to have won a Frozen Four with Jessie Vetter and Alex Rigsby.

    As a freshman, she ranked third overall in team scoring. The following season, Knight truly found her stride as she led the NCAA with 45 goals, while claiming the scoring title with 83 points, respectively. In a Sept. 27, 2008 match vs. the Quinnipiac Bobcats, Knight logged five goals (a Badgers record).

    After taking a year off to compete with the United States national team at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Knight came back and was named to the 2011 All-America First Team.

    On Jan. 28, 2012, Knight scored the game-winning goal against Bemidji State goaltender Zuzanna Tomcikova in front of a record 12,402 fans at the Kohl Center.

    An elite goal scorer, Knight is the all-time record holder for career game winning goals with 29, short handed goals with 8, and power play goals with 36. The greatest player in NCAA history to have never won the Patti Kazmaier Award, her 141 goals and 259 career points are Badgers records.

1: Jessie Vetter

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    While Alex Rigsby may surpass her records, no one will dispute that Jessie Vetter is the greatest goaltender in Wisconsin Badgers history. A leader with a heart of gold, Vetter was a key leader in the Badgers Frozen Four title runs.

    In 2006, she became the first goaltender to record a shutout in the Frozen Four. The following year, she had a remarkable goals against average of 0.83, making her the first goaltender in NCAA women's ice hockey history with a GAA under 1.00. For her efforts, she was recognized as WCHA Goalie of the Year.

    If there are any records that Rigsby will not surpass, there are two that stand out. The 2006-07 season saw Rigsby log 448 minutes and 32 seconds of ice time without allowing a goal. This is a record that will stand like Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. In her senior season with the Badgers (2008-09), Vetter logged an NCAA-record 14 shutouts.

    Along with 31 wins during the 2008-09 campaign, she earned the Patty Kazmaier Award. Vetter also led the Badgers to the 2009 Frozen Four championship in a match where she would defeat Hillary Pattenden of Mercyhurst, the player that would eventually break her NCAA career wins record.

    During 2009, Vetter would also be named the Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player while earning a spot on the All-America team. She would also win the Bob Allen Award, awarded by USA Hockey to the best women's hockey player.

    The Women's Sports Foundation would also name her the Sportswoman of the Year. The Babe Ruth of women's ice hockey goaltenders, Vetter is simply the best.