Preview: No Confidence Waver

After a confidence hit in a weekend sweep by North Dakota, No.15 Wisconsin has a chance to refuel the batteries with a successful weekend against No.1 Minnesota Duluth.

MADISON - Whenever he sits down at home and flips game, Mike Eaves has an unfortunate tradition that when the film starts to look ugly, he steps away from his computer for a short time to compose himself.

Needless to say, he never did get comfortable last weekend.

"I stepped away a lot," Eaves said. "And it was unusual."

When he flipped on the film from North Dakota, there were few highlights, a lot of lowlights and plenty of teaching points after Wisconsin lost back-to-back games for the first time in 62 games. The power play sucked the team's energy out on Friday night, it's youth became a hindrance with players starting to go individualistic instead of sticking with the team formula and got very few second-chance opportunities, managing just 16 shots in both games.

The one positive from the weekend was senior goalie Scott Gudmandson, who stopped 32 shots and rarely got much help.

"You can learn things from when you win and learn things when you lose," senior captain Sean Dolan said. "I've been on teams where you get yelled at more after you lose a game. I don't think we are going to take silver linings because we know we need to come out and try to win every game."

With that mindset, it's no shock that No.15 Wisconsin skated the hardest it has all season in practice earlier this week in preparation for a series against top-ranked Minnesota Duluth Friday-Saturday at the Kohl Center.

Even with two combined goals in two games, the statistics still confirm Wisconsin (6-4-2, 3-3-2 WCHA). Despite the power play going 1-for-8 last weekend, the Badgers still lead the conference with a 28.6 conversion rate. The Badgers are third in the conference with 3.73 goals per game and are tops in the country on defense, averaging just 1.92 goals against.

Those are traits that have kept Wisconsin in every game, having lost only two games by more than one goal.

"If we go out and play scare, we'll get blown out of the water," assistant coach Gary Shuchuk said. "The majority of the guys in the locker room know that if we have success, we've got to be a hard team, physical and any time we have a letdown, we'll get scored on. If we aren't ready and play soft, we'll get scored on. We need to be hardworking because you can't play this game scared."

The Bulldogs (9-1-2, 6-1-1 WCHA) have won three straight, including an overtime win over North Dakota, and is off to their best start in the 67 years of hockey. Duluth is tied for second in the conference in scoring offense in conference games, averaging 3.38 goals per game. A big reason is returning All-American Jack Connolly. The conference's preseason player of the year, the junior center figured in on five of UMD's nine goals over the weekend and, on Saturday, matched a career best with three points (all assists).

No.1 Duluth represents the third-straight ranked opponent Wisconsin has faced in the month of November (1-2-1). With a pair of ranked teams coming to Madison next weekend in No.9 Michigan and No.17 Michigan State, the Badgers knows there is plenty of time to right the ship.

"We know we are a good team and we believe in ourselves," Dolan said. "We are so young and we are still learning during games and in practice. We know this is a huge month for us. This is probably the hardest month of the season and it's going to be a grind. If we can come out of this with at least a .500 record, it's definitely going to be a huge factor for us at the end of the year."

No.1 Minnesota Duluth (9-1-2, 6-1-1 WCHA) vs. No.13 Wisconsin (6-4-2, 3-3-2 WCHA)

Date/Time - Friday-Saturday, November 19-20 at 7 p.m. CT

Stadium –Kohl Center (15,239) – 200' x 97'

Television - Friday –FSWisconsin. Saturday – WISC-TV, Charter Xtra, Time Warner Sports

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Brian Posick, Mike Cerniglia)

Series – Wisconsin leads 87-57-13 (UW leads 50-22-5 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Minnesota Duluth won, 4-0, on Jan. 30, 2010 in Duluth

Series Notes:

Wisconsin holds a slight 3-2-1 record in the series over the past two seasons.

Wisconsin is 11-8-5 against Duluth under Eaves, including 6-4-2 at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers are 7-2-2 against no.1 teams under Eaves, including 6-1-2 at the Kohl Center.


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