What: Quinnipiac Bobcats (2-2-0 overall, 0-0-0 Atlantic Hockey) at Wisconsin Badgers (1-3-0, 0-2-0 WCHA)
When: Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25, 7:05 p.m. CDT
Site: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: Fox Sports North live TV coverage; WIBA-AM (1310) live radio broadcast, Wisconsin Public Television tape delayed 10:30 p.m. (Friday)
Series notes: Teams have never met.
Last season was one that Badger hockey fans would like to forget. However, it is hard to quickly forgive and forget after a 1-3 start to this season. They'll also remember that senior captain and forward Rene Bourque led the team with 19 goals last year, nine more than anyone else on the team. Bourque has not scored yet this season and freshman forward Andrew Joudrey is the only Badger with multiple goals (2).
A weekend series at home against the Bobcats will provide Wisconsin a chance to disprove early doubts that have carried over from last year. The Badgers were swept last weekend at St. Cloud State. They fired more shots on goal both nights, but only managed to score once in each game.
Quinnipiac, meanwhile, is coming off a sweep as well after back-to-back one goal defeats at the hands of perennial-powerhouse Michigan. The Bobcats allowed eight goals on an astounding 95 shots on the weekend. Taking advantage of the opportunity this weekend is essential for the Badgers, but it will not come easy.
"Our guys better be afraid of them," head coach Mike Eaves said. "You don't just go into Michigan and give yourself a chance to win games there."
"You always want to play well in front of your home crowd," sophomore winger Nick Licari said. "Getting off to a good start at home and rebounding from last weekend is very important.
This weekend may come down to a battle between goalies. The weird part of the situation is that each team may use a different netminder each night. A new face will be behind the Badger goalie's mask at some point this weekend. Junior Bernd Bruckler has been in net for all four of the games thus far, but freshman Brian Elliott will get his first chance, starting one of the nights this weekend. Playing at home against a non-conference opponent is a good opportunity to give a new player a chance as well as give the veteran Bruckler a night off.
"Brian is at a point now where he needs to get some game action. He's played well in practice and it's time for him to be tested," Eaves said.
The Bobcats have gone back and forth between senior Justin Eddy and junior Jamie Holden. Eddy had 51 saves in one game against Michigan and allows fewer than 2.5 goals per game whereas Holden allows almost four with an .899 save percentage. It will be interesting to see if Quinnipiac sticks with its strategy or gives Eddy the nod in both games.
"They have an outstanding goaltender and we have been having trouble scoring," Eaves said. "But it's just the challenge I think we need. We need to break loose here and score some goals and if it's against a good goaltender then that will give us confidence."
"It will be a challenge, but if we keep shooting and start putting our rebounds in then we are going to get our fair share of goals," Licari said.
Scoring has been the problem for Wisconsin so far. They have notched only eight goals in four games, and half of those came in their opening game. The Badgers, though, have had opportunities. They are averaging more than 30 shots per game and the fact that they just cannot seem to buy a goal is frustrating for the team.
"We just have to stick with it. We have to believe in ourselves and stay focused and don't give up," Bourque said.
Undoubtedly the fans at the Kohl Center will be looking for that kind of attitude on the ice this weekend. They will not stand for a repeat of last year and neither will this team and its coaching staff. Quinnipiac will be another challenging opponent early in the season and the Badgers will have to play tough if they hope to walk away with a victory or two.
"This is a must win weekend for us," Bourque said. "We just have to battle hard to get two wins."