Solid between the pipes

With Colorado College set to visit the Kohl Center ice, the Badgers may have an advantage in net

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What: No. 6 Colorado College Tigers (6-1-0 overall, 3-1-0 WCHA) at Wisconsin Badgers (6-3-1, 3-2-1)
When: Friday, Nov. 21, 7:05 CST and Saturday, Nov. 22, 8:05 p.m. CST
Site: Kohl Center, Madison, WI
Broadcasts: UPN-14 live TV coverage (Friday); WIBA-AM (1310) live radio broadcast, Wisconsin Public Television tape delayed (Friday) 10:30 p.m.
Series notes: UW leads 99-48-5, 52-23-1 at Madison, 0-2-0 last year 

X-factors: they come into play in every sport, and for hockey, one of them is the goaltender. An x-factor is something or someone that can be the backbone of your team when successful, but can cause a total demise if you do not have one. Wisconsin seems to have found that x-factor in the form of junior Bernd Bruckler, who is ready to step up and be the backbone of a successful Badger squad. 

After exploiting a Minnesota team who lost their x-factor before the season began, the Badgers have a chance to do the same against Colorado College this weekend. 

Earlier this week the sixth-ranked Tigers announced that All-American goalie Curtis McElhinney will be out for at least one month with mononucleosis. He was 4-1-1 this year with 2.47 goals allowed per game and one shutout. He is 35-7-7 in his career, and the loss of this x-factor could prove costly. However, freshman backup Matt Zaba has already proven his ability, beating Clarkson and Denver, both on the road. 

"He's a freshman who went into Denver and won right away. For the first ten minutes he looked out of place but after that he played very well," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. "But he hasn't been to the Kohl Center yet and hopefully that will be a factor." 

"Every team trusts in their guy that's backing them up," Bruckler said. "The game has shown in the last few years that the defensive game has gotten more important." 

The Badgers find themselves in a completely different scenario. Bruckler is healthy, playing outstanding, and says he is ready to be the backbone of this team. He spent the majority of last season splitting time with Scott Kabotoff, but has shown that he is ready to take over full-time, and that is exactly what he has done. Bruckler is 5-3-1 and allowing less than three goals per game. He is coming off of a weekend where he held the Gophers in check and allowed his team to rally back and take three points and looks to be comfortable between the pipes. 

"I'm really excited to have a chance to be the backbone of this team and just be in there night in and night out," Bruckler said. 

With all of that said, Wisconsin has to continue to get the puck on net and keep scoring goals if they want to be successful this weekend. They are still lacking a prominent scorer, but their combined efforts continue to get the job done. The highly touted freshman class continues to step up as Jake Dowell garnered WCHA Rookie of the Week honors for the second straight week. 

"We're lunch bag guys," sophomore forward Adam Burish said. "We don't have any one guy who can just go out their and dominate a game on their own so we need to stick together and keep doing the little things that make us successful." 

The Badgers are riding their longest unbeaten streak in three years. They are excited about winning and excited about competing, but at the same time they have to make sure they do not get so excited that they lose focus. As in all sports, it is important to play one game at a time.

"Guys know that if we get too high that this team could come in and stomp us," Burish said. "The guys realize that and are remaining level headed."

"I don't think there are any grand illusions," Eaves said. "We addressed the things that we need to get better at and we know we still have a lot of work to do."

This weekend looks to be another competitive series in the Kohl Center. Sitting in third place in the WCHA after opening league play by getting swept on the road, the Badgers now control their own destiny, and Colorado College is just the beginning.

 


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