Standing between the pipes for one of the signature programs of NCAA women’s ice hockey, Cami Kronish delivered on all accounts in a dream season. Leading the Wisconsin Badgers to an unprecedented seventh national championship, her 31 save effort proved crucial in a 1-0 shutout win providing a storybook finish to her career. Following in the footsteps of iconic Badgers goaltending greats such as Jessie Vetter, Alex Rigsby, Kristen Campbell and Kennedy Blair, all have savored victory on the biggest stage in college hockey.
Earning the starting goaltender duties for the 2022-23 season, the opportunity proved to be well worth the wait. The four-time WCHA Scholar Athlete served patiently in back-up roles to Campbell and Blair. Rewarding the Badgers for their faith, Kronish recorded 30 starts, logging 1882:51 minutes, while an impressive 21 win season involved eight shutouts and a sparkling 1.56 goals against average.
Throughout the narrative of her final season of Badgers hockey, the month of March saw redemption as a key theme for Kronish. As March began with the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals, the Badgers suffered a heartbreaking defeat to the archrival Minnesota Golden Gophers. Considering that it marked the Badgers first loss of the season to the Golden Gophers, momentum was not in their favor as they reached the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection.
Displaying a tremendous resilience, the Badgers dismantled the Long Island Sharks in the opening round as Kronish needed only six saves in a 9-1 final. Coincidentally, her NCAA debut, which took place on October 18, 2019, saw the Sharks provide the opposition. Followed by a convincing 4-2 triumph versus the Colgate Raiders, as four different Badgers bulged the twine, the opposition in the next rounds were highly familiar.
With three teams from the WCHA reaching the Frozen Four, testament to the talent in display, the road to glory involved rematches with division rivals. A seesaw battle with the WCHA Final Faceoff champion Golden Gophers saw the Badgers grab their first lead of the game only at the 7:25 mark of the third period. Adding to the intensity, former Minnesota Ms Hockey Award winner Madeline Wethington tied the game with less than two minutes remaining, forcing overtime. Demonstrating a bright future for the Badgers, freshman phenomenon Caroline Harvey scored in overtime, preserving the drive for a seventh title.
Reaching the national championship game, the Badgers enjoyed significant support as celebrated alums Hilary Knight and Abby Roque were in attendance. As a crowd of nearly 4000 packed AMSOIL Arena in Duluth Minnesota, the defending national champio Ohio State Buckeyes entered the game with 33 wins. In their previous matchup, the Buckeyes handed Kronish and her fellow Badgers a 3-1 loss on Senior Night.
With the rivalry escalating to a new relevance, Kronish provided plenty of encouragement, nullifying a Buckeyes power play in the first. Considering that the game quickly emerged as a defensive stalemate, freshman Kirsten Simms scored at the 13:38 mark of the first, the greatest goal of her promising career. Coincidentally, another freshman, Claire Enright, earned the assist.
Employing disciplined play, while Kronish showed poise, the Buckeyes were unable to tie the score, their dreams for a second straight championship evaporating. With a brilliant 1-0 final signifying her finest hour , the perspective of Kronish encompasses a highly admirable maturity, demonstrating how she was a model teammate for so many seasons. Undeniably, the Badgers run to the National Championship, managing to overcome previous losses to division rivals mirrored the career of Kronish, one built on patience and character.
“It is still surreal to me. I never thought the game would end 1-0, but while you are in the moment, you try not to think too far ahead. Instead, trying to break the game down into five minute increments.
So for the majority of the game, I was only thinking about the present. It was not really up until the last 10 seconds that I realized we were actually going to win the game. It was an amazing team effort and I am so proud of how we performed. We showed everybody what we were capable of.”
Fittingly, Kronish earned recognition as the Frozen Four Most Valuable Player, putting the exclamation mark on a career defining game. Accentuating the feeling of celebration and achievement, acclaim as the Hockey Commissionet’s Association (HCA) Goaltender of the Month followed. Worth noting, teammate Caroline Harvey earned HCA Player of the Month honors. The exciting double of hockey hardware commemorated a magical month for Kronish that shall long be remembered.
“It was quite an honor. The last few months of the season everybody was so focused on the team goals, that individual achievements were on the back burner. Therefore, I was not really thinking about that stuff while we were going through playoffs. Yet it is obviously a very big honor, and I could not have been put in a better position by my teammates who really helped me elevate my game and succeed.”
While the shutout versus Ohio State represents the game of her life, the bigger picture reveals a legacy that sees Kronish intertwined in the Badgers proud championship narrative. Winning three Frozen Four titles (2019, 2021, 2023), each title, possessing its own unique context, together, all weave a triumphant tapestry.
From the experience of a title as a freshman, finding inspiration in Kristen Campbell’s 27 save effort in a 2-0 shutout versus Minnesota, to a 2021 Final played in Erie, Pennsylvania during pandemic woes, prevailing against Northeastern in overtime, the path reached ended with Kronish backstopping the Badgers to their lucky seventh title, cementing an inspiring legacy. At the spring graduation and convocation, an image of Kronish on the big screen with her three championship rings resulted in applause, providing an heroic sendoff.
“Each championship was unique from the others. My freshman year, when we won, it was just a crazy whirlwind, because everything was so new to me coming out at the end of that season. Winning was beyond crazy. Seeing the way that the seniors worked and devoted themselves to winning was such an amazing lesson that I took with me for the following four years.
Of course, in 2021 winning in overtime was beyond exciting. That was at the end of a crazy Covid year when we had no fans and we had a limited schedule. So, it was amazing to be rewarded for all of our sacrifices at the end with that win
Then, this year was just an amazing culmination of work and dedication. I am so happy with the way that things turned out, I do not regret a single thing. I am so thankful for my time here, and my teammates, and everybody that I have worked with.”
Fittingly, the acclaim for Kronish continued after graduation. Along with fellow senior Britta Curl, both earned one more prestigious honor. Gaining a place on the College Sports Communicators Academic All-District At-Large Team, it serves as the crowning touch to five fantastic years at Wisconsin. Having enjoyed many lasting friendships and a multitude of championships, the fulfillment reached is only outmatched by a proud sense of unity. Boasting one of the finest athletic programs in the NCAA, the feeling of school spirit always resonated, making the opportunity to wear the Badgers paraphernalia a privilege. Pondering the next chapter, the experience is poised to evoke powerful memories, holding a fond place in her heart.
“The thing I am going to miss most about Wisconsin are the people. Everybody is so friendly, helpful, generous, and devoted to the school and its success. It was amazing to see the community come together to support us. I love all the people that I have worked with. Plus, I have met some really amazing athletes and staff. I am going to miss walking into the rink and saying hello to everybody.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated“