By Dale Woodard on March 25, 2021.
Dara Greig and her University of Wisconsin Badgers teammates were unsure if there was even going to be a season.
Now, the Lethbridge product and her women’s hockey teammates are Frozen Four NCAA champions.
Facing the top-ranked Northeastern Huskies in the championship final Saturday in Erie, Penn., Greig and the second-seeded Badgers pushed a 1-1 tie into overtime before Wisconsin’s Daryl Watts scored in the extra period to give the Badgers their second straight — and sixth overall — NCAA title, which they won in 2019 after the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Starting in September, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a season,” said Greig, a forward, who turned 20 Dec. 30. “It’s nice that we got to celebrate this and go out this way.”
On the phone Wednesday afternoon, the past couple of days have been understandably set aside to celebrate.
“It’s been quite an experience,” said Greig.
“We got back at 1 a.m. (to Madison Sunday). We had the trophy and we went out to the main street on campus and everyone was cheering (as) we were running around with the trophy. Everyone was just loving it.
“Then we got up early and went for breakfast. The fan base and support is insane. Our team was out for breakfast with the trophy and in our hats and jerseys. Cars were honking as they passed by and people were stopping by wanting to congratulate everyone. It has been really fun to be a part of.”
Still, the COVID question mark lingered from the start of the season and the prospects didn’t look much better when most of the Badgers came down with the virus that sidelined the team until January.
“We were supposed to have somewhat of a normal season that was supposed to start at the end of September,” said Greig. “We ended up playing two games against Ohio State in mid-November and we ended up having pretty much our whole team getting COVID. That shut us down until January, so that was disappointing.
When they came back, the rest of the league was still playing, said Greig.
“Some of the teams also got shut down with COVID. So it was a team-to-team basis. If games were able to be played between two teams, then they were, and if they weren’t, they obviously weren’t.”
But when the Badgers returned in January and could once again practise together, Greig noted the good vibes picked up right away.
“Even at practice we were just happy to be there because a lot of times in the first half we were practising in groups of five people. It just wasn’t as fun because nobody really knew what was going to happen, there were just so many unknowns,” she said.
“So when we came back and started to practise as a team everyone was having such a great time because we could finally all be together. There weren’t the limitations there were before. So being away from each other in the first half, the second half brought us even closer together because we all got to practise and play and be together. That was huge.”
The Badgers went 15-3-1 to earn their second-place ranking.
They advanced to the championship game thanks to their 4-2 win over third-seeded Ohio State last Thursday.
“It was exciting the whole game,” said Greig of the final between the top-two teams.
“It was 0-0 for a while, but I had nothing but confidence. We were close as a team and confident throughout. Going into OT, Daryl Watts was always the one to put the puck in the net and just like before, she did it again. So that was exciting. Everyone just had full confidence we were going to come out on top.”
However, Watts’ bank shot from behind the net did cause a split second of confusion from Greig’s vantage point.
“At first on the bench we were all kind of confused,” she said. “What just happened? What did that hit or is that even a goal? Everyone was kind of paused for a second and then Daryl threw her gloves in the air. So we jumped the bench. It was just an adrenaline rush, super-exciting. I’m so happy for everybody with how hard the team has worked. It was just nice to end that way, for sure.”
Amid the celebrations, Greig made sure to get on the phone as soon as possible to call her family back home.
It caps off a nice year in hockey circles for the Greig family.
Greig’s brother, Ridly, was drafted in the first round and 28th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the NHL draft last October and is currently with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League.
Her sister, Kyra, played for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and her father, Mark, is a former first round draft pick of the Hartford Whalers in 1990 and a former Lethbridge Hurricane.
“I phoned my parents right after and they were all smiles,” she said. “It’s just nice with everything that has happened this year with COVID to end it on a good note. The year was so hard.”
The championship title wraps up Greig’s sophomore year with the Badgers.
In 21 games this year, she scored two goals and five points after posting three goals and six points in her rookie season at Wisconsin in 2019-20.
“I think in a normal year I would have been a lot more excited and ready for the season, but with COVID there was so much unknown,” said Greig. “I felt being a second-year, it was probably our job to help the freshmen. They didn’t know what college was like and then with COVID it made it even more crazy. It was definitely more of a leadership role coming into the second year, just to help out the freshmen.”
Now, Greig and her teammates take some time to enjoy their championship before she eyes up a trip home.
“This week we’ve been celebrating and soaking it all in,” she said. “I think I’ll probably go home next week and see my family for a bit. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like with quarantining and COVID. I have dual citizenship, so that helps a lot with the borders. Hopefully I get to see the family. I haven’t seen them since Christmas.”
Greig spent the 2014-15 season with the Lethbridge bantam AAA Golden Hawks of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League before moving down the road to Warner Hockey School in 2015-16.
From 2016 to 2019 she played with the Pursuit of Excellence Canadian Sport School Hockey League before heading to Wisconsin in 2019.
Like her family and friends, those former teammates have also been lighting up her phone.
“A lot of the guys I grew up in Lethbridge playing with have been texting me,” said Greig. “They’re just excited for me. Obviously, a lot of family has been texting as well as a lot of old teammates and high school friends. That has been really huge to see that support from them.”
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