UW women's hockey: Decker makes most of chance

2011-10-08T06:00:00Z 2012-05-23T17:55:39Z UW women's hockey: Decker makes most of chanceANDY BAGGOT | abaggot@madison.com | 608-252-6175 madison.com

Brianna Decker knows time is running short, so the junior center for the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team is trying to make every nanosecond count.

Decker only has another eight weeks or so to alternately observe and pick the fertile brain of Meghan Duggan before the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award winner graduates from UW in December with a degree in biology.

Duggan, the all-time leading scorer in program history who led the Badgers to the NCAA title last season, intends to return to the Boston area where she grew up and where she'll continue to train toward another berth on the U.S. Olympic Team for 2014.

Between now and then, Duggan is a fixture at UW practices, attacking every drill and conditioning session. Decker is never very far away.

"I've taken so much from her already and she's continuously helping me," Decker said of her former linemate. "I'm trying to soak up everything as quick as possible here the next couple months."

Decker, from Dousman, has a world-class skill set that could reunite her with Duggan on Team USA for the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

In 70 career games, Decker has 54 goals, 60 assists and 114 points. She's coming off a sophomore season in which she totaled 80 points (34 goals, 46 assists) and teamed with Duggan and current senior winger, captain and Olympian Hilary Knight to guide the Badgers to their fourth national title in six years.

Decker became a protégé of sorts for Duggan. Whatever drill Duggan did, Decker wanted to see if she could do it better. Whenever Duggan stayed after practice to work on her game, Decker was right there, too.

But this goes beyond the game. Duggan was an exceptional captain. Teammates respectfully referred to her as "Alpha." When Decker picks her brain, the subjects aren't limited to on-ice tactics.

"I ask her little things about leadership and how to control certain situations on the team," said Decker, one of three assistant captains along with senior wingers Brooke Ammerman and Carolyn Prevost. "And I know she studies her butt off all the time. I want to pick up on those things, too.

"I want to be an all-around good person and that's what she is. She's a great example for every one of us in that (dressing) room."

The top-ranked Badgers are about to get a good measure of their collective character. They open a daunting month of matchups at 2 p.m. Saturday when they host North Dakota in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at the Kohl Center.

The Sioux are loaded with talent and seem primed for a breakthrough season. That series is followed by two more against rivals Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth before Boston University comes to Madison for a rematch of March's NCAA title game.

"We're playing solid teams this month," Decker said. "It's going to be a challenge, but we need to focus on ourselves."

In the midst of carrying 17 credits this semester, Duggan kept close tabs on Decker. Duggan likes what she sees.

"She has developed into probably, I'd say, one of the best players in the world," Duggan said. "Just in the last year the strides that she's made in her game are unbelievable. I think everyone has noticed them.

"I'm really excited to see where she's going to go this year. Her eagerness to learn and get better every single day I think is what's made her into an elite player. She's only going to get better because of that."

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