Having won the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2012, Brianna Decker is one of the bright young stars for the US National Team. One of Decker’s linemates at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds is Amanda Kessel, the 2013 Kazmaier winner, respectively.
“We played together a couple of times in high school. I like to see us paired up once in a while. When the two of us get put together, we try to make things happen out there.”
Heading into the 2013 Worlds, the US squad was forced to deal with the loss of Kelli Stack (the Directorate Award winner for Best Forward at the 2012 Worlds). “I think those are hard shoes to fill. She is a very skilled player. It is an opportunity to step up. Kessel has had a great tournament so far. Kendall Coyne has stepped up, players like that help fill her shoes so far.”
Although the opening night loss to Canada in a shootout was visceral, Decker believes the squad has the confidence to bounce back. “I think that was a very difficult loss. We learned from last year, the first game is not the important one to win. The last one is the one you want to win. We want to come out strong and play again in the Finals.”
Having graduated from the Wisconsin Badgers program in 2013, she established herself as one of the greatest players in their history. “Wisconsin was a great experience for me. I learned a lot from the players that were older than me. I am ready to move on and look at other opportunities to succeed further in the game.”
Her head coach at Wisconsin was Miracle on Ice member (and head coach of the US women’s team at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games) Mark Johnson. Playing for Johnson, she had the opportunity to win the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four.
“He gave me opportunities as a sophomore. I played with (current US teammates) Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight. I learned a lot from them and they helped me to succeed, showed me how to work hard, and become a leader in my career.”
With the Badgers having competed in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference, Decker is one of 13 WCHA alumni on the US roster. Despite the rivalry with programs such as the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the players have a unified goal when competing with the US.
“The Gophers and Badgers (on this roster) get along. It is an opportunity to play together again in almost a year. The chemistry is great. We all know what the other can take and we have fun with it.”
A point of pride for Decker is to see fellow Badger, goaltender Alex Rigsby named to the US National Team. “She worked hard, and last summer she really committed. She had a great season, like the last couple of seasons. It was well deserved and I am excited for her. Hopefully, she will get the chance to play in a game.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”