Looking for the Punctuation Mark

Two National Championships and three-straight Frozen Four appearances, Wisconsin's senior class, led by captain Erika Lawler and All-American goalie Jessie Vetter, have put Wisconsin women's hockey on the map. Now, they are looking to write the final chapter in their legendary careers.

BOSTON – Most teams of their caliber don't need a spark, someone to flip a light switch or a good kick in the behind to get the focus back on the task at hand.

Now imagine if one of the biggest recent dynasties in women's hockey got that spark, that flick or that kick, just how dangerous they would be.

Well, the world is about to find out.

Few things have gone wrong for the top-ranked Wisconsin women's hockey team over the 2008-09 calendar year, a squad Mark Johnson has been quoted as saying is one of his best, but a mid-adventure up to Minneapolis in early February has served as a benchmark.

Wisconsin (31-2-5) was soundly handled in the series opener against No.2 Minnesota, losing senior captain Erika Lawler to a shoulder injury in the process, and managed to hold on for a tie in the series finale. In retrospect, the series ended all hopes of a WCHA regular season championship for the Badgers, but the will to win became even greater

"Every team goes through their ups and downs, but I knew the potential our team had," senior goaltender Jessie Vetter said. "We have a lot of great players, a lot of great forwards, and we got a little extra focus to make sure we'd play some great hockey down the stretch."

Eight wins and one tie later, the Badgers appear as focused as ever. Out scoring their opponents 45-11 since, including a 7-0 blanking of seventh-ranked Dartmouth in the NCAA Quarterfinals, and Wisconsin has its fourth-straight Frozen Four appearance and are looking for its third title to cement the legacy of six exceptional seniors.

"We've just been extremely fortunate and proud and honored to be a part of this team," Lawler said. "We've been so competitive the last four years. We've been through it all and that's really special."

The top-ranked Badgers play Minnesota-Duluth in the Frozen Four semifinals today at Agganis Arena and a victory would send them into their fourth consecutive national championship game against either Minnesota or Mercyhurst Sunday, a place Lawler, Vetter, Rachel Bible, Kayla Hagen, Angie Keseley and Alycia Matthews that has become familiar ground with them.

The sextet already owns two NCAA title rings (06 and 07), five WCHA regular season or playoffs titles, have won 86 percent of their games (132-16-13) and have won an unfathomable 92.3 percent of their playoff games (24-2).

"We've had a pretty good run," Lawler said, "but we aren't done yet."

The dominance of Wisconsin over the past four years can truly be measured this season with the Bulldogs and Gophers also representing the WCHA in the playoffs. With the Badgers owning a 2-1-2 record against both Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth, the Badgers are the cream of the conference crop, which they showed by beating both squads in route to their third WCHA Playoff trophy in four years.

"We definitely play our best hockey that weekend," Vetter said of the conference playoffs. "It goes us excited of what we could do in the playoffs and here in Boston."

Take a straw poll of the 23-member team and nobody is more excited for this weekend than Lawler.

The Massachusetts native lived 45 miles from downtown Boston in nearby Fitchburg and has played just twice on the East Coast (New Hampshire and Lake Placid, New York in 2007). Two years later, Lawler's career circle is almost complete. With dozens of family and friends watching first hand, she hopes that her career ends with another ring and an exclamation point.

"Every time you get a chance to participate in the Frozen Four, it's an unbelievable experience and I am just really thankful and really proud to be apart of this team that have been there four straight years," she said. "What better place to have it for me than Boston? I've been looking forward to this the whole year and it's been the main objective."

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