When Minnesota women’s hockey sophomore Becky Wacker started her first shift of the season last weekend, the ice might have felt a little different.
Perhaps it’s because, for the first time since she began high school, her knee works the way it’s supposed to.
After six months off the ice because of knee surgery, Wacker cued Minnesota’s scoring barrage with a goal in the first period of Saturday night’s 7-1 victory.
“I thought it was great that she scored,” coach Laura Halldorson said.
“I’m very happy with where she is.”
Wacker played in all 36 games last season, despite reinjuring her knee, which had already been injured four times in high school hockey.
“I’m kind of hoping that having a stable knee for the first time in however long will really add to my game,” Wacker said.
Wacker was only continuing on the offensive production of her freshman season, in which she scored 14 goals and seven assists, tying her for fourth in scoring among WCHA rookies.
But despite her stats, Wacker played half the season with a knee injury sustained in January.
Unfortunately, the injury came to the knee Wacker injured in high school. She assumed it was a similar soreness and decided to play through the pain, she said.
“I’m a little hard-headed,” she said.
When the season ended, Wacker took a month off from training. But the knee failed to convalesce as expected. A magnetic resonance imaging test confirmed she needed surgery to repair a stretched and torn ligament.
“My knee was going north and south, then east and west,” Wacker said.
An operation in May meant no walking until mid-July and no skating until the Maine native returned to campus in early September.
“When you’re injured, there’s no amount of working that you can do to make it go away,” Wacker said.
“You have to sit down and not work, and that’s completely against what an athlete does.”
After easing back into skating, Wacker said, she can now play relatively pain-free, but she said she came out shaky in her first shift back during the weekend.
“After six months of not skating, it was rough,” Wacker said.
“It was probably my second shift (Friday), and I was just like ‘wow.’ You forget how much faster the game is compared to practice.”
Now that she’s back in the lineup, Wacker continues to test out her knee, gaining the confidence to resurrect her old style of play.
“I want to make sure I don’t become hesitant, because the way I have played the game has always been all-out and aggressive, and battling in the corners,” Wacker said.
With her knee finally working the way it’s supposed to, she hopefully won’t have that problem.
Two Gophers honored
Two Gophers earned WCHA honors this week for their contributions to the weekend’s series against St. Cloud State.
Sophomore defender Lyndsay Wall notched three goals and two assists, earning a plus/minus rating of plus-four and being named defensive player of the week.
Freshman forward Bobbi Ross, who scored her first collegiate goal and added two assists, shared the rookie of the week accolade with Minnesota-Duluth’s Rachael Drazan.