Badgers hockey lacks early punch
For starters, the Badgers boast seven seniors and nine juniors, making it an upperclassman team for the first time since 2005-06, the last time Wisconsin won the national championship.
The Badgers, coached by Mike Eaves, return 80.3 percent of their points and 86.7 percent of their goals from last season and have 11 players who have been drafted by NHL teams.
With the offensive prowess the Badgers appear to have, the amount of light bulbs needed to replace the burned out goal lamp every week would have put the athletic department way over budget. Maybe that’s why Wisconsin’s offense was so quiet in the season-opening series; everybody is trying to watch their finances.
Taking only one of a possible four points from visiting Colorado College, Wisconsin managed just three goals, despite firing 68 shots on goal in the weekend series at the Kohl Center.
Even more disconcerting was the fact that the Badgers played Saturday’s game without their three top returning scorers from a year ago. Captain Blake Geoffrion was injured, and Brendan Smith and Michael Davies were benched for poor play. In addition, senior forward John Mitchell, who had 15 goals last season and flirted with the NHL,
didn’t register a shot one night after firing four.
“I think we learned a little about our team,” Eaves said of the opening weekend. “As much as they want the reigns as an upperclassman team, they aren’t quite ready for that yet. They aren’t at that level. But, hey, we just started our journey.”
One of the key components on UW’s road to a seventh national championship is senior captain Ben Street, who returned Friday to the Badgers lineup for the first time in 380 days after suffering a torn ACL in the fourth game last season.
Requiring season-ending surgery and receiving a medical redshirt from the NCAA, Street, who shared the team lead with 13 goals two years ago, had an immediate impact on the ice. He had strong presence with the puck, won plenty of one-on-one puck battles and scored his team’s only goal in Saturday’s 1-1 tie.
“It was a good feeling back out there,” Street said. “It was hard simulating game situations in practice, but being out for a year and coming back, it was a change of pace. It was a little bit of relief, a little bit of excitement.”
Eaves shared the enthusiasm.
“I thought he played really strong,’’ the coach said. “I know in practice he’s been frustrated with not being able to put the puck in the net, but that will come.”
But if the Badgers had new question marks pop up over the weekend, the series provided some encouraging perspective on Eaves’ goaltending situation. He got two solid performances from junior goaltenders Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmandson.
Bennett, a fifth-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, who spent two seasons at Boston University from 2006-08, got the opening-night start in part because of being better at finishing plays. He showcased those skills, despite some jitters, stopping 23 of 26 shots in the opener.
“It was definitely fun and felt good,” Bennett said. “It was good to see the type of team that I have in front of me. You take a lot from a game like that. I thought it was an above average game.”
After backing up Shane Connelly and appearing in 10 games the past two seasons, Gudmandson answers Bennett’s Friday performance with a strong effort of his own, stopping 31 shots.
“I thought both young men stepped up and did their part,” Eaves said.
Now, it’s time for Wisconsin’s offense to do the same.
Oct. 16—Colorado College, lost 3-2.
Oct. 17—Colorado College, tied 1-1 (OT).
Oct. 23—At Minnesota State, Mankato,
Oct. 24—At Minnesota State, Mankato, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30—New Hampshire 7 p.m.
Oct. 31—New Hampshire, 7 p.m.
Nov. 6—Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Nov. 7—Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Nov. 13—Alaska Anchorage, 7 p.m.
Nov. 14—Alaska Anchorage, 7 p.m.
Nov. 20—At St. Cloud State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 21—At St. Cloud State , 7 p.m.
Nov. 27—At Michigan Statem, 6 p.m.
Nov. 28—At Michigan, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 4—Michigan Tech, 7 p.m.
Dec. 5—Michigan Tech, 7 p.m.
Dec. 11—At North Dakota, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 12—At North Dakota, 7 p.m.
Jan. 1—Ferris State vs. Yale, 4 p.m.
Wis. vs. Merrimack, 7 p.m.
Jan. 3—Merrimack vs. Ferris St./Yale, 4 p.m.
Wis. vs. Ferris St/Yale, 7 p.m.
Jan. 9—U.S. Under-18, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 15—At Colorado College, 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 16—At Colorado College, 8 p.m.
Jan. 22—Denver, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23—Denver Kohl Center, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29—At Minnesota-Duluth, 7 p.m.
Jan. 30—At Minnesota-Duluth, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6—Michigan, Camp Randall Stadium, 5 p.m.
Feb. 12—Minnesota State, 8 p.m.
Feb. 13—Minnesota State, 8 p.m.
Feb. 19—St. Cloud State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 20—St. Cloud State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 26—At Michigan Tech, 6 p.m.
Feb. 27—At Michigan Tech,m 6 p.m.
March 6—At Minnesota, Target Center,
March 7—At Minneapolis, 1 p.m.