Waiting for an Opening

With senior Scott Gudmandson in the zone, leading the conference in goals against average and save percentage, senior Brett Bennett has to sit, hoping to prove that he still has what it takes.

MADISON – It's the ultimate catch-22 situation for Wisconsin senior goalie Brett Bennett.

He's in a situation in which a desired outcome is impossible to attain because of a fundamentally illogical condition. To put it even simpler, Bennett is a year older, more confident and is playing what he feels is his best hockey since coming to Madison.

Problem is, he's in front of one of the hottest goalies in the country.

Senior goaltender Scott Gudmandson has made seven consecutive starts, holding UW's opponent to two games or less in all seven contests, and is 6-1-0 during the stretch with five straight wins.

Gudmandson leads the WCHA with a 1.88 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in all games.

Bennett's numbers are far from pedestrian (2.35 goals-against average and .913 save percentage) but his hot senior counterpart has forced him to stay on the bench since Nov.26.

"It's definitely frustrating knowing that you are playing well and you can't get in there," Bennett said. "On the other hand, Scott is playing good and if Coach Eaves wants to ride him, that's fine. I just have to be ready when I get my opportunity and always be patient and ready to go."

Bennett came to Wisconsin to win, and to compete for the open starting job that was vacated two seasons ago when Shane Connelly graduated. He started the season-opening loss to Colorado College, came back the next week to engineer a 6-0 shutout at Minnesota State with 19 saves in program's first shutout over the Mavericks and started back-to-back games against Minnesota in mid-November.

"He was doing a lot of good things," said Head Coach Mike Eaves, "but that injury set him back."

The injury Eaves referred to was a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and injury that Bennett suffered in a December practice after he got drilled on a scramble for a loose puck in front of the net. Bennett grinded through the rest of the season, making 30 saves in a win over No.1 Denver, but Gudmandson registered a 10-game unbeaten streak when Bennett went down and never looked back.

"I've been feeling great coming off my surgery," said Bennett, who had surgery April 15 and didn't start feeling good until six months after. "I've been feeling really good and I just want to get another chance to get in there. I feel like I am in good shape, a year older, a year confident. I feel real confident in Madison. I know the town more and feel like I have been going place to place and jumping around. I just feel more comfortable now that I am here for a couple years. It's easier knowing how everything works."

Bennett will have to wait at least one more day for a starting nod, as Gudmandson will get the nod when No.13 Wisconsin (12-7-3) opens 2011 with a home series against the Canisius Golden Griffins (6-8-4) of the Atlantic Hockey conference Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center.

This weekend might be Bennett's last chance, barring injury, to get significant ice time at Wisconsin. After this weekend last non-conference series, Wisconsin finishes the year with seven conference series. With the Badgers in a tie for sixth place and eight points out of first, the Badgers will stick with the hot hand.

Until Gudmandson cools down, Bennett will wait, hoping the catch 22 finally yields him a desirable outcome.

"Ever since you are a kid, you've had competition," Bennett said. "There's always two goalies on a team and only one can play. You can't bring your ‘A' game everyday so when he doesn't bring his ‘A' game, hopefully I can and vice versa. It's just how it has to be. It's friendly, it's healthy and it's just part of the game.

"I just want to keep doing what I am doing – stopping pucks, controlling rebounds and giving the team a chance to win."

Canisius (6-8-4, 5-6-4 Atlantic Hockey) vs. No.13 Wisconsin (12-7-3, 6-6-2 WCHA)

Date/Time - Friday-Saturday, January 7-8 at 7 p.m. CT

Stadium –Kohl Center (15,325) - 200' x 97'

Television - None.

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

Series – First Meeting

Series Notes:

In a schedule with various unfamiliar foes for the Badgers, Canisius is the second new opponent for the Badgers this season after the UW skated for the first time against Holy Cross in the second game of the season

1992 Ohio State graduate Dave Smith is the head coach for Canisius, sporting a 68-105-26 mark behind the bench in his sixth year

Senior forward Cory Conacher is the reigning Atlantic Hockey player of the year after posting 53 points last season. His nine goals and 18 points lead the Griffs this season.


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