Preview: Unsatisfied Sweep

Although a sweep was good for the standings, Wisconsin hockey knows it needs to carry out a dominant performance throughout a weekend series. After struggling in Sunday's victory, No.15 Wisconsin looks for two complete performance when it travels to Denver this weekend.

MADISON - There's no question that Wisconsin hockey's first sweep of the season was a confidence booster heading into its opening weekend of Western Collegiate Hockey Association action.

It also showed that the Badgers simply can't come to the rink and assume things are going to go their way.

In last week's series opener against Alabama-Huntsville, the Badgers outshot the Chargers 47-17, were 4-7 on the power play and won 7-0. In the series finale, a lackadaisical effort was enough to earn a 5-2 victory, and served as a wake-up call.

"You can't come to the rink not ready to play and not be on your toes," UW Coach Mike Eaves said. "Talking about human nature, we just beat a team by what we out shot them. We say and do all the right things but if that natural emotion isn't there where you are jacked and ready to play, you find yourself in a heck of a game."

No.15 Wisconsin will look to find that intensity as it faces the first of many measuring sticks in the long hockey when it travels to No.11 Denver for a two-game series beginning tonight.

The Badgers (3-1-0) were all smiles after last Friday's triumph, but succumbed to what proved to be a hectic off day. With the team taking off Saturday so as not to compete with Wisconsin football's night game against Ohio State, the team had most of the day off before being brought in for a halftime meeting and to watch the rest of the game.

When Sunday's matinee faced off, the intensity was brought instead by the visiting team, and enforced the point that a more talented team would have put the sluggish Badgers far behind the 8-ball.

"We're not used to playing games Friday-Sunday, especially at one o'clock in the afternoon," assistant captain Jake Gardiner said. "We had a sluggish start and coaches told us to get the guys fired up, which is what we did after the second period."

The numbers tell a positive story so far Wisconsin. Its power play has scored at least two goals in each of its ?rst four contests and ranks third in the nation at 37.9 percent (11-for-29). The Badgers are averaging 5.25 goals per game with 21 goals through four contests. Positive numbers for such a young team, but ones that reflect playing three games against unranked opponents with a 3-5-0 combined record.

After all, Wisconsin allowed three power-play goals against No.8 Boston University, then killed off the next 11 power plays before allowing two on its sluggish Sunday.

"It's a process and not an easy thing to do," senior captain Sean Dolan said. "We had a sluggish start and we need guys to step up."

Just like Wisconsin, Denver is adjusting to a big roster turnover, losing three underclassmen to the pros. Under Coach George Gwozdecky, a former teammate of Eaves at Wisconsin who is entering his 17th year behind the Denver bench, the Pioneers got their wake-up call last weekend in a home sweep against No.1 Boston College. The home sweep was the first against Denver since March 2007 (made by Wisconsin is the first round of the WCHA playoffs) and the first by a non-conference opponent since 1991.

Even with a Denver's injury-riddled lineup, the Badgers will have to contend with senior Anthony Maiani, DU's top returning scorer (8-26=34), and Jesse Martin, the team's leading scorer with three points.

Denver is also 1-for-21 (4.8 percent) on the power play and 18-for-19 (94.7 percent) on the penalty kill this season, a product of the Pioneers going 0-for-17 against Boston College. With both teams unsatisfied with last weekend, Eaves knows that Sunday's game will be a valuable teaching point.

"We talked about it after the game to not have another game like this, but we'll have our challenges along the way," Eaves said. "We can refer to this in many ways."

No.14 Wisconsin (3-1-0) vs. No.11 Denver

Date/Time - Friday, October 22 at 8:30 p.m. CT and Saturday, October 23 at 8 p.m. CT

Stadium – Magness Arena (6,026/200' x 85')

Television - Friday live on FSWisconsin and FS Rocky Mountain. Saturday streamed live at Denverpioneers.com.

Radio - Badger Sports Network (Brian Posick and Mike Cerniglia)

Series – Wisconsin leads 73-55-10 (UW leads 37-25-4 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin posted a 6-3 victory on March 20, 2010 in the third-place game of the 2010 WCHA Final Five at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.


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