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Decker making her mark

first_imgDecker has already recorded eight more goals and 18 more assists than she did in her first year.[/media-credit]Going outside for recess, taking field trips, watching cartoons and drinking chocolate milk; these are some of the things the average fourth grader desires. But when Brianna Decker’s fourth grade teacher asked her what she wanted, Decker detailed a much loftier dream: to play hockey for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.Fast-forward through a decade full of pond hockey with her older brothers, time with boys’ teams in middle school and various club and prep teams and Decker, the Badgers’ star sophomore goal scorer, has realized that dream.In her second year of service, Decker has accumulated 23 goals and 30 assists (1.77 points per game), good enough for third in the WCHA conference. According to head coach Mark Johnson, it’s not only her natural scoring ability, but also her effort on the ice that makes her the player she has become.“She can score,” Johnson said. “She’s strong, and she protects the puck really well. If she goes into a corner and has the puck, she’s tenacious, that’s tough to play against.”Decker’s numbers from this season have already eclipsed last year’s totals (15 goals, 12 assists). In fact, she only trails teammates Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan for the overall point lead in the entire WCHA conference.Decker has described her head coach as the best coach she’s ever had, but Johnson hesitates to take any credit for her success.“I think over the course of the summer she conditioned herself, strengthened herself, played in the August camp for the national team and came into camp ready to go. So give her credit for getting herself prepared for the season,” Johnson said.Decker’s production on the ice has earned her much more than one of the top spots on the scoring charts. Though only a sophomore, her stellar play has vaulted her into one of the leadership roles on the best team in the country.According to team captain Meghan Duggan, Decker doesn’t need to assert herself vocally in order to demonstrate that leadership.“I think she leads by example on the ice,” Duggan said. “She’s one of those players that, whether you’re younger than her or older than her, you can look up to her on the ice. She does all the little things that we need a stand out player to do, and she has been outstanding for us this year.”The Badgers have the luxury of two players in Duggan and Knight, who both played in the Olympics last year, who can take on much of the leadership responsibility for the team.But once the two Olympians graduate and move on from the program, Decker will likely take over the majority of those duties.“Pass the torch to the next one, that’s the path that you go down. She becomes a junior and a senior, and you expect more off the ice than you would with a freshman or a sophomore,” Johnson said.Decker has a head start on the off-the-ice leadership role that one day she must embody.According to her teammates, the sophomore is a great cook and has cooked for many players on the team.“I like to cook salmon. My dad’s Alaskan salmon, he brought it back last summer, I can prepare it any way, like for teriyaki I use soy sauce and lemon,” Decker said.If Decker isn’t recognized for her fish recipes, she can take solace in the fact that she was recently acknowledged by the U.S. National Team as worthy of a roster spot on the squad.The team, which will play in the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Championship, also once again calls upon the services of Duggan and Knight. But for Decker the honor isn’t only rewarding, but validating, as well.“I’ve been working hard. I worked out hard all summer, and it’s kind of nice to get my name up on that roster for the world’s team. I feel like my work is starting to pay off now,” Decker said.Decker will have the rest of the season to continue solidifying parts of her game. Johnson believes she can still improve in the face-off circle and killing penalties before her time with the national team.With those improvements to go along with overflowing confidence, one of the best players in the country could reach a whole new level.“I think a lot of it has to do with confidence,” Duggan said. “She gained confidence early and she’s just been on a tare. She’s going to be one of the best players in the world in the next couple of years, if she’s not already.”last_img

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