This is the first in a series of articles honoring the 20 players who have been selected to the WCHA's 20th Anniversary Team. This week's honoree is Sara Bauer, who played at Wisconsin from 2003-04 to 2006-07.
By Bill Brophy
If you go to Sara Bauer's Twitter account these days, you will see she is running the Sara Bauer Academy for hockey in St. Catharines, Ontario. At the bottom of the account description, you will see three attributes on how she played the game when at the University of Wisconsin.
"Diligence, Passion, Tenacity" is what it reads. Those virtues helped Bauer win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as women's hockey best player in 2006. They also helped Bauer lead the Badgers to their first two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in 2006 and 2007.
"She didn't have the biggest body or was the best skater or had the hardest shot, but Sara generally had the puck or was around the puck," said Mark Johnson, the Badgers' coach, reflecting back on his memories about Bauer, who was a 5-foot-3 forward when darting around the rinks of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). "Her hockey IQ was very, very high.
"Like all great players, they understand the game well. Even if they don't have the puck, they understand what to do. That's Sara. She understood hockey."
In four years at Wisconsin, Bauer scored 80 goals, had 138 assists and 218 points. Those numbers, along with the Kazmaier Award and the two championship rings in her home in Ontario, caused voters to induct her into the UW Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 in the same class with an NHL all-star (Brian Elliott), an Olympic gold medalist (Bobby Suter) and two Rose Bowl winning quarterbacks (Darrell Bevell and Brooks Bollinger).
"She was just a very skilled player," said Johnson, "and her junior year she was really, really good."
That was 2005-06, when she scored 22 goals, added 36 assists and had 58 points, becoming the first of four Patty Kazmaier Award winners in Wisconsin. That year she also helped skate the NCAA championship trophy around Mariucci Arena when the Badgers won their first title, beating Minnesota in the Gophers' backyard.
The next year Bauer was named the WCHA's Player of the Year and registered at least a point in 28 of the team's 41 games. She had 24 goals, 48 goals and 72 points, won the WCHA scoring championship and was a finalist for the Kazmaier. While she didn't win women's college hockey version of the Heisman Trophy that year, she was named the Most Outstanding Player in the 2007 NCAA Women's Frozen Four as Wisconsin repeated as national champ, beating Minnesota Duluth in Lake Placid, N.Y.
That same year, Bauer was one of 10 players named to the WCHA's all-decade team, which honored the league's best players from the first 10 years.
Bauer played boys hockey while growing up in St. Catherines and was a savvy player when she arrived in Madison and was named WCHA Rookie of the Year in 2003-04. She led the Badgers in scoring the next three years and was named All-American. When her playing career ended at UW she held 17 team records (and still ranks seventh in WCHA history for assists, tied for 13th with 18 game-winning goals and 15th for points).
After graduation from Wisconsin, Bauer got her master's degree in Education from Niagara University and the 34-year-old now runs the Sara Bauer Academy in St. Catherines.
About the WCHA 20th Anniversary Team
As it celebrates 20 Years of Excellence during the 2018-19 season, the Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) will honor the 20 alumnae named to the WCHA 20th Anniversary Team. The team will be revealed, one-by-one, in alphabetical order, one per week (except for the week of Dec. 24) through the week of March 4, prior to the 2019 WCHA Final Faceoff.
From an initial list of 120 nominations, representing each of the league's all-time eight schools, the WCHA 20th Anniversary Team Committee selected 41 finalists. To be nominated a player (forward, defenseman or goaltender) must have completed her collegiate eligibility at a WCHA institution (nominees did not have to play a full four seasons in the WCHA; however, current student-athletes were not eligible).
The WCHA 20th Anniversary team was determined by 1/3 fan vote, 1/3 WCHA alumnae vote and 1/3 Committee vote (consisting of two WCHA Office staff, one former and two current head coaches and three alumnae).