When: Friday, Nov. 28 6:35 p.m. CST, Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, Michigan and
Saturday, Nov. 29 6:05 CST, Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, Michigan
Broadcast: WIBA-AM (1310) live radio broadcast
Series Notes: Wisconsin trails Michigan 47-60-7 (1-8-1 in the Showcase), Wisconsin trails Michigan State 36-44-2 (1-9-0 in Showcase)
While the majority of UW-Madison students headed home for the holiday weekend, the hockey Badgers head to Michigan to take part in the 11th annual College Hockey Showcase. The Showcase features Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Michigan State with the two WCHA teams squaring off against each of the CCHA teams in non-conference play. The Badgers have not faired well in previous Showcase play, and they will need to play their best if they hope to be successful this year.
Riding the wave of momentum from their nation-leading eight-game unbeaten streak, the Badgers have stressed all week the importance of playing 60 minutes of good hockey. This message comes after last weekend when they came away with two disappointing ties. Wisconsin will have to play hard for 60 minutes if they want a chance to win this weekend.
Michigan is coming off of a split with CCHA-leading Ohio State. They lead the teams in the Showcase with 14 wins in 20 showcase contests and are ranked sixth in the latest USCHO.com Poll. The Badgers have not beaten Michigan in the Showcase in ten years. Led by freshman forward T.J. Hensick, the Wolverines have not been beaten at home this season. Sophomore goaltender Al Montoya has helped backbone the team, allowing just 2.83 goals per game and posting two shutouts in 12 games.
On Saturday the Badgers head to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. Led by junior Jim Slater, who has 10 goals and 12 assists in 14 games, the Spartans are averaging almost four goals per game. The goaltending tandem of freshman Dominic Vicari and junior Matt Migliaccio are each giving up less than three goals per game. Michigan State joins Wisconsin in the "others receiving votes" category in the latest poll.
"To me the bigger deal (than just Showcase success) is playing well against these teams because of what it could do for us, once again, in the RPI ratings," coach Mike Eaves said. "If we can do the things that we want to do, then at the year's end that's what the tournament committee is going to look at."
The key to Wisconsin's success is playing a full 60 minutes night in and night out. Last Friday they could not wake up until the third period, when they played with enough intensity to rally for a tie and came close to pulling off a victory. The next night they dictated play for the first two periods, but could not seal the deal in the third and let the win slip away. If they can find a way to play three full periods every night, they have the opportunity to succeed this season.
"We talked about a complete effort. We have to come out these next few games here and put 60 minutes together," John Funk said.
There are many things that the Wisconsin hockey team is thankful for this holiday weekend. First and foremost has to be their goaltender, Bernd Bruckler. Bruckler has been sturdy during their current streak, allowing just 17 goals in the seven games he has played during the streak.
Next, the Badgers have to be thankful for their health. Except for a minor injury to Tom Gilbert who has since recovered, the injury and illness bug has stayed away from the team.
"All of the sudden you realize that ‘We're just playing a game,'" Eaves said. "I'm thankful for the health we have and hopefully we'll all have a safe holiday season."
Last, the Badgers have to be thankful for this year's recruiting class. The first group recruited by Eaves, this year's freshmen have been a key to the Badgers early success. Andrew Joudrey, Jake Dowell, and Robbie Earl are ranked third through fifth on the team in scoring, respectively, and five other freshmen have registered points.
"Right now, the biggest thing is that we are getting points every weekend," Eaves said. "We still are undefeated in eight games and these are all positives that we can build on."
The Badgers will need a full effort from each and every player this weekend if they want to walk away with points again. Both Michigan and Michigan State have shown that they can score and their goalies have stopped other teams from scoring. They are perennially powerful hockey programs; the type of program that the Badgers are striving to again become. They will not go down lightly or be beaten by a team that can only play one or two periods of solid hockey.