What: Wisconsin (0-0-0 WCHA, 1-1-0 overall) at St. Cloud State (0-0-0, 0-0-0)
When: Friday, Oct. 17 and Saturday, Oct. 18, 7:05 p.m. CDT
Site: National Hockey Center, St. Cloud, Minn.
Broadcasts: Fox Sports North live TV coverage; WIBA-AM (1310) live radio broadcast
Series notes: 28-18-5 all-time, 9-7-3 at St. Cloud, 1-0-1 Last year
Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) play opens up this weekend with a series between the Badgers and St. Cloud State Huskies. Wisconsin is coming off a weekend where it placed second in the Maverick Stampede after an overtime victory against the University of Nebraska-Omaha followed by a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Maine. This is the Huskies first series of the season. St. Cloud's only competition thus far was an exhibition victory against St. Clair, a community college in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The Badgers got off to a good start last weekend, thanks in part to the play of some of the underclassmen. Freshman Andrew Joudrey garnered WCHA Rookie of the Week honors for his goal and two assists on the weekend. Freshman Robbie Earl and sophomores Tom Gilbert and Ryan MacMurchy each tallied two points. The team's six goals were scored by six different players, three of them freshmen.
"Last year we pretty much just had Rene (Bourque) scoring, so that was obviously a problem for us all year," senior captain Dan Boeser said. "If we can keep this going with six different guys scoring I think that's a good thing for us."
Boeser went into last weekend with a 42-game streak without netting a puck. That ended Friday night when he scored the game winner in overtime. Boeser is coming off of a season full of bad luck. After recovering from cancer he came back only to break his hand in a fluke accident. His season was never the same, but this season looks to be different.
"Scoring a big goal like that in a big game kind of makes me look at this season like a new beginning," Boeser said.
Unfortunately, because St. Cloud State has not played in a regular season game, the Badgers do not have much of a scouting report on them. Senior Matt Hendricks, third in scoring on the team last year, is the biggest returning offensive threat after posting 18 goals and 18 assists last year.
One of the biggest questions is who will play in net for the Huskies. Sophomore Jason Montgomery, the only returning goalie (3-7-4 overall), will most likely get the nod in Friday night's game. However, Minnesota-Duluth transfer Adam Coole may see time between the posts.
"We're going to have to go off a little bit of what we saw last year and speculate a little bit. And that makes it interesting sometimes when you play these types of games. You've got to adjust while you're running," head coach Mike Eaves said.
Power plays and penalty kill were two of the concerns in last weekend's performance. The young team not only showed some spark on offense, but also sometimes showed its weakness mentally. Also, senior captain Rene Bourque's 13 shots without a goal was less than desired.
"We need to take a step further in playing smart. The way that we would give up a goal right after we scored instead of taking that momentum and using it shows that we slipped mentally," Eaves said.
Starting off the WCHA season with a couple victories would be a huge step for the Badger hockey program. Standing in its way is a team with new personnel that has not played a game in which they could be judged.
MacMurchy put it best when he said, "We've got to be looking for a sweep this weekend, nothing less, and unless we get that the job's not fully accomplished."