Former UND players thriving in new destinations
MADISON, Wis.—A sign was taped to the entrance of LaBahn Arena on Saturday afternoon that said: "SOLD OUT."
Technically, it was oversold.
The University of Wisconsin issued extra tickets for its series between the No. 1 Badgers and No. 3 Ohio State to get as many people in the building as possible. If they could find a seat of a no-show, great. If they couldn't, they were able to stand at the railing that wraps around the 2,273-seat arena that opened five years ago in downtown Madison.
There was a unique twist to this showdown between two teams with a combined record of 19-0-1, though.
Those taking center stage were supposed to be on the same side this season.
Wisconsin's star player is goalie Kristen Campbell, who set an all-time school record by the end of the first month of the season for winning all 12 starts. Ohio State's first-line center is Charly Dahlquist, a two-way forward known for her tenacity as much as her offensive skills. And Ohio State's associate head coach is Peter Elander, a former Swedish Olympic head coach.
All of them spent the last few years together at UND, but went their own direction after the school eliminated its women's hockey program in March due to budget cuts.
Now, they are thriving in their new destinations.
They're not the only ones—Vilma Tanskanen (Mercyhurst), Ashton Bell (Minnesota Duluth) and Malia Schneider (Colgate) all lead their teams in goals—but perhaps no two teams have benefitted more from North Dakota than No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 3 Ohio State.
"When North Dakota folded, a lot of coaches were going after their players," Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall said. "And I thought, of course, we want to get our hands on some of their players as well. It was a huge benefit to get Charly because of her speed and how she was successful with a really good line last year with (Ryleigh) Houston and (Amy) Menke.
"But I went after the coach. That's longterm. It was a great addition to add Peter. It's not a short-term thing for one or two years. It's something you'll hopefully have for years to come."
Wisconsin, meanwhile, began its quest to land Campbell and make her the program's latest superstar goaltender. The past three Badger starters—Jessie Vetter (U.S.), Alex Rigsby (U.S.) and Ann-Renee Desbiens (Canada)—all have played for their country's national team.
"There's a grace period because of the shock and how quickly it happened," Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. "Players were going to be stunned. The hockey community was stunned. There was a period of time where we let the players absorb what transpired. But I think a previous relationship with our assistant coach Jackie Crum helped the process along. We brought her to campus and told her, 'Here's your opportunity if you choose to come here.' At this point, it's worked out really well."
Saturday afternoon belonged to the undefeated Badgers. They routed Ohio State 7-0—Campbell earning her fourth shutout of the season—to please the sold-out crowd.
At one point in the game, Dahlquist hovered by the crease looking for a rebound and drew the ire of a Badger defenseman.
"Back off my goalie!" the Wisconsin player yelled.
"Hey," Dahlquist answered, "that's my goalie."
Friends to foes
The former UND players have had to get used to seeing each other on the other side this season.
Campbell started one game against Kennedy Blair, who would have been her backup at UND this year. She played a weekend against Emma Nuutinen and Tanskanen, who were here roommates last season. And one of the only players to score against her—she has given up less than a goal per game—was former teammate Rebekah Kolstad, now at MSU-Mankato.
"I'm really happy to see the girls when I get the chance," Campbell said. "After everything everyone went through, being able to see those girls at the rink and give them a hug. . . we shared some great memories together. Now, we have new ones to make at our new schools."
Between now and Christmas break, Dahlquist will play against MSU-Mankato (Kolstad), Robert Morris (Sarah Lecavalier), St. Cloud State (Abby Thiessen, Hallie Theodosopoulos) and Mercyhurst (Blair, Nuutinen, Tanskanen).
"It's pretty cool," Dahlquist said, "because each team we play, there's a little bit of North Dakota out there."
Campbell, who spent the summer working with goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and the two-time Olympic medalist Lamoureux sisters in Grand Forks, is in position to earn major individual honors this season.
After sweeping Ohio State in the series between previous unbeatens, she is 14-0-0 with a .949 save percentage and a 0.93 goals-against average.
"Obviously, it feels like I'm starting over again," Campbell said. "As the days went by, every day, I got more and more comfortable and. My mentality coming in was that I wanted to start. At North Dakota, I was going down that path. My mentality was to keep doing what I was doing there."
Despite losing the first two games of their season, the outlook for the Buckeyes is still bright. They have already earned a win and a tie at perennial powerhouse Minnesota and swept Minnesota Duluth this season.
"It was definitely a big adjustment," Dahlquist said. "But at the end of the day, I feel like I am where I'm supposed to be. The team has been great to me, very understanding of the whole situation. They've really taken me in. I couldn't ask for a better team and a better program."