The greatest threat to long-term success is complacency, which explains an ongoing search-and-destroy mission by members of the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team.

For the fourth time since 2006, the Badgers begin a season with the task of defending an NCAA championship. While that's a cherished burden to be sure, it comes with all sorts of challenges -- chief among them snuffing out any sense of self-interest.

"If we have it, we're going to take care of it quickly," senior winger and captain Hilary Knight said.

"If it's in place," UW coach Mark Johnson said, "then we have to stop that right away."

Their motives are rooted in a simple reality: The Badgers have enough key pieces to win it all again.

While all-time leading scorer, U.S. Olympian and Patty Kazmaier Award winner Meghan Duggan has moved on, UW has some elite talent to lean on when it begins a new season this week.

Knight, a 2010 Olympian and two-time first-team All-American, is the all-time leading goal-scorer in program history (112) and needs 37 points to supplant Duggan.

Junior center Briana Decker, a second-team All-American in 2010-11, is fresh off a season in which she scored 34 goals and joined Duggan and Knight at the 80-point plateau.

Senior winger Brooke Ammerman has averaged 1.2 points per game during her career and is one of six returnees who were double-digit goal-scorers last season.

Sophomore goaltender Alex Rigsby had a spectacular debut, going 27-1-2 with a 1.76 goals against average and 93.3 save percentage as the Badgers won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and playoff titles last season.

Those and other pieces will begin sliding together Friday night when UW begins a new season by hosting NCAA Division I independent Lindenwood (Mo.) University in a series at the Kohl Center that concludes Sunday.

"Repeating is hard to do," Knight said. "It's going to be tough, but I think we have all the tools and resources to do it."

Johnson, the UW and Olympic icon, is back for his 10th year as coach after an offseason in which he interviewed for, but wasn't offered, the job as men's coach at Penn State. He's been down this path before as a player and coach, so he knows the drill when it comes to repeating.

He won a NCAA title with the Badgers as a freshman in 1977, but never returned. He also led the women to titles in 2006 and '07, but fell short in 2008.

"It's hard, very hard, because no matter where you go you've got the bull's-eye," said Johnson, who brings a remarkable .830 winning percentage into the season (247-41-24). "The level of difficulty is depending on what the group does to prepare themselves for the season."

To that end, Johnson believes his players paid their training dues during the offseason just as he believes he has a championship-caliber club.

"There are things there that you like at this time, but you still have to go paint the picture," he said. "There's a lot of work ahead of us."

Tremendous chemistry, fostered mainly by Duggan, was a hallmark last season when UW finished with a 27-game unbeaten streak (25-0-2). Senior winger and assistant captain Carolyn Prevost, who scored two goals in the NCAA title game against Boston University, thinks it's even better this time around.

"I've never been part of such a good group of girls, on and off the ice," she said. "We support each other so well. We have fun. I think that leads to how well we do on the ice, just the fact that we get along so well."

The Badgers have already had their first brush with adversity. Sophomore winger Madison Packer, who had 13 goals last season, is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a concussion during a recent practice. She crashed into the boards and was taken from the Kohl Center on a stretcher to UW Hospital.

Lots of issues can come to life leading up to the NCAA Frozen Four March 16 to 18 in Duluth, Minn. Knight said the key to the process is being prepared.

"The best word I use to describe it is just having a sedulous mentality - doing everything with a purpose and doing it to your best effort," she said. "We've got a good core group here and I think we can steer all the young girls in the right direction."

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