Driven by destiny, leadership and prowess on both the offensive and defensive end, this team stands alone.No, I’m not talking about the ’85 Bears who finished 15-1 and went on to dismantle the competition in the playoffs, cruising to victory in Super Bowl XX. Nor am I referring to Michael Jordan and his Bulls’ wondrous 1995-96 team that went 72-10. And I’m certainly not citing any of the Celtics teams back in the 60s, the Montreal Canadiens during the 50s through 70s, or even the UCLA teams that won seven straight NCAA titles between 1967 and 1973.In fact, I’m not talking about a team or season that is even on the national radar. What I’m talking about is the Wisconsin women’s hockey team.Look at it. What you’ll find is downright absurd. And outside of Madison, practically nobody knows it. Just like those teams, the Badgers are in a league of their own.Chew on these numbers. Last season, the Badgers capped a 36-4-1 finish with their first national championship. This year, it has been more of the same.Now, there is still plenty of hockey left to be played. They have more talent than some NCAA men’s teams, and they certainly have more heart than Ricky Bobby.There have been some ridiculous streaks in sports lore, including the 1971-72 Lakers’ 33-game winning streak, Oklahoma football’s 47-game winning streak from ’53 to ’57, the 1916 New York Giants’ 26-gamer on the diamond and the 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins’ 17-gamer. These are the streaks of the best there ever were.Sports are difficult to compare across one another, no doubt, but the women’s hockey team won — not tied — 18 straight games, and put together a string of 26 games where they skated to just one tie, going 25-0-1, before being blanked by the Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth. For basically three-fourths of a season, the hockey team didn’t lose. To put the duration of that streak in perspective, it would be like the Bulls winning 60 consecutive games that historic season. In football, 26 consecutive games would have assured Matt Leinart’s Trojans two consecutive undefeated seasons. And he still would have gone home with a doggy bag for the remainder.But this UW team isn’t just about one streak. No, after Wisconsin lost 2-0 to Minnesota-Duluth, it has begun another streak. Currently, it is riding a 13-game unbeaten streak. So in the past 40 games, the Badgers have gone 36-1-3 (.938). Although it isn’t perfect, it’s pretty darn close.To me, I find it borderline absurd that when Johnson talked with me a few weeks back about their “slip-ups” to St. Cloud State, we were talking about ties. Not losses, but ties. This team is that good: a tie, not a loss, means the Badgers didn’t play to their utmost potential.And what potential they have. Entering the weekend where Wisconsin outscored Minnesota State 5-0 and 8-0, it ranked No. 4 in the country in goals scored and No. 1 in goals allowed at 1.08. On the power play, the Badgers score at a 32 percent rate (best in the nation) while holding their opponents to a 9 percent conversion rate.During the month of January, the Cardinal and White has outscored its opponents 42-2 over eight games. At one point the Badgers pitched four-straight shutouts and out-shot their opponents by a three-to-one margin. Now if Bobby Boucher were a real athlete, I could put this team’s dominance in perspective, but since he’s not, I feel that there isn’t anyone or any team right now that would do them justice.Sure, Wisconsin is just 1-1-1 when trailing after the second period. But it’s never in that position, so there isn’t much cause for concern. The fact that they have had the lead after two periods in 24 of 28 games says it all.Of course this season would all go to waste if they didn’t win the NCAA Championship, which, according to Johnson, could very well happen.”Once playoff time comes around, Coach always says you can blink your eyes and it can be done,” said freshman forward Meghan Duggan, who is tied for second among rookies with 37 points. “So we’re just going to stay on track and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”But let’s be realistic. On any given night this squad is going to win 94 percent of the time. Odds are in their favor.And with players and leadership who have been there before and played in the big games, as well as the almost gut-wrenching talent they have up and down their roster, there isn’t a team in the country who will beat them.I know it’s a long way to the eight consecutive championships that the Celtics won during the 60s, but the Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team is well on its way.Kevin is double majoring in journalism and economics. If you would like to discuss the women’s hockey team’s success or possibly your list of the best teams ever, he can be reached at email@example.com.
If Raphael Assuncao went on a profanity-laced tirade during one of his interview scrums this week in Fortaleza, Brazil, erupting after another question about the precarious position he’s in heading into his main event rematch with Marlon Moraes on Saturday, no one would really blame him.It would be completely out of character for the 36-year-old veteran, but it would be wholly understandable. Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearAssuncao has been one of the top contenders in the bantamweight division for more than five years, first arriving there after a split decision victory over T.J. Dillashaw extended his winning streak to five and maintaining that position by posting four consecutive wins since running it back with the current ruler of the 135-pound weight class at UFC 200.He is 11-1 since dropping down to compete in the bantamweight ranks after making his UFC debut as a featherweight. He holds victories over Dillashaw, Pedro Munhoz, Bryan Caraway, Aljamain Sterling, Matthew Lopez and Rob Font along with having already edged out Moraes less than two years ago.In the time since that fight, Assuncao has called for major opportunities and sought to remain active, taking high-risk, low-reward assignments when the more prominent names in the division have continually declined to face him. As a result, he fought only once last year and is now kicking off his 2019 campaign by venturing to Fortaleza to run it back with Moraes on Saturday night.“At the end of the day, I couldn’t just sit and wait,” said Assuncao, who was admittedly reticent to run it back with Moraes so quickly when the offer first came across the table. “I was waiting for a different fight, either with Dominick (Cruz) or Cody Garbrandt and that didn’t happen.“Marlon had some good performances and (the UFC) wanted to make this fight happen again. At first, I wasn’t interested, I wasn’t really motivated, but after the boss gave a word that the winner is the clear-cut No. 1 (contender), that got me interested.“And look — I’m a workman,” he added. “I go to work every day and it is what it is. I have my goals, obviously, but I have no problems right now.”A consummate pro who wants to set a good example for the younger athletes training in his gym in the suburban Atlanta area, Assuncao isn’t one to talk trash or use social media to stir up interest in a potential fight. He simply goes about his business, continues winning and politely asks for the opportunity many believe he’s already earned.The same is true now as he heads into the cage this weekend for his rematch with Moraes without knowing for sure that a victory is going to secure him the championship opportunity he’s been chasing.Prior to this month’s flyweight title fight that saw Dillashaw venture down the scale to challenge Henry Cejudo for his belt, most anticipated that the winner of Saturday’s main event would be next in line to face the bantamweight titleholder. But when Cejudo stopped Dillashaw in 32 seconds, everything changed.The flyweight champion immediately offered to run it back, but this time at bantamweight and the possibility of a second consecutive “Champion vs. Champion” clash could be far too appealing for the UFC to pass up.“It’s unfortunate, but there is nothing I can do,” Assuncao said of the current uncertainty at the top of the division. “The world is not just. I believe in God and Jesus and nothing is just. Things happen. I’m going to stay positive and resilient and it’s going to happen.“Right now, I’m not thinking of the title,” he added. “I’ve got a tough job in front of me to get done.”Indeed he does.Since their first encounter at UFC 212 — which saw Assuncao emerge on the happy side of a split decision verdict in a fight that legitimately could have gone either way — Moraes has collected three victories. After going to the cards and coming away with a split decision win of his own against John Dodson, the Mark Henry-coached striker needed just 100 seconds combined to stop Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera to position himself in the thick of the title chase.Despite having already shared the cage with Moraes for 15 minutes and having an idea of what to expect from the former World Series of Fighting standout on Saturday night, Assuncao isn’t paying much attention to their first fight as he readies to run it back with Moraes this weekend, although he is expecting a similar outcome.“I always plan for a different game because I’m going to bring a different game,” he said. “I think it will be an altogether different fight.“It’s going to feel great (to get another victory) and once again I get to prove what I’m capable of and how I handle myself; to be a role model to our athletes here at our gym in Atlanta and prove to everybody what I can do. For me, every challenge is a different challenge, but this challenge is different because it’s a rematch,” Assuncao added. “I’m always improving, so I want to showcase my improvements.” And should he emerge victorious, might we get that profanity-laced, frustration-fueled tirade about his long overdue title shot?Of course not, but don’t expect Assuncao to be silent either.“I don’t plan what I’m going to say — usually I just go by heart — but if everything goes my way, I’ll have some words to say.”