What: Badger Hockey Showdown featuring Union, Massachusetts-Lowell, Ferris State and Wisconsin
When: Saturday Dec. 27, Ferris State vs. UMass-Lowell 4:35 p.m. and Union vs. Wisconsin 7:35 p.m., Sunday Dec. 28, Union vs. Ferris State/UMass-Lowell 4:35 p.m. and Wisconsin vs. Ferris State/UMass-Lowell 7:35 p.m.
Site: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: Live TV coverage on Fox Sports Net and Live Radio broadcast on 1310 WIBA-AM
The 15th Annual Badger Hockey Showdown takes place at the Kohl Center for the first time this weekend. Previously held at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Badgers have won the tournament eight times. Union, Massachusetts-Lowell, and Ferris State will all be playing in their first Showdown.
On Saturday, the Ferris State takes on UMass-Lowell in the first game; the nightcap pits Union against Wisconsin. The two winning teams and the two losing teams will play each other on Sunday with Wisconsin playing at 7:35 p.m., regardless of its result the previous night.
Ferris State (6-8-2 overall, 4-7-1 Central Collegiate Hockey Association), last season's CCHA champions, come into this weekend with a sub-.500 record, but have been playing better as of late. Currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak, the Bulldogs will be well-rested as they have not played since the first weekend of this month.
Senior Brett Smith leads the team with 18 points, 11 of them coming on his current six-game scoring streak. In net for Ferris State is junior Mike Brown who has a .887 save percentage and has allowed 3.07 goals per game.
Massachusetts-Lowell (7-7-3, 4-3-1 Hockey East) has lost three of its last four games and currently find themselves in the middle of the pack in the Hockey East standings. The River Hawks are a very young team and their top seven scorers are all underclassmen.
Sophomore forwards Ben Walter and Elias Godoy lead the team with 20 points each on a team with just five upperclassmen. Junior netminder Chris Davidson has compiled a 6-6-3 record and is allowing fewer than three goals per game.
Union (7-5-3, 2-3-1 Eastern College Athletic Conference) is winless in its last four contests and also has not played since the first weekend in December. The Dutchmen have dropped to 10th in the ECAC and the loss of their captain has proven costly.
Midway through December the Dutchmen lost senior captain Glenn Sanders for the rest of the season due to a spleen injury. Sophomore forwards Scott Seney and Jonathon Poirier have stepped up and lead the team with 15 and 12 points, respectively. Sophomore goalie Kris Mayotte gets most of the starts between the pipes and has a 5-5-3 record and a .907 save percentage.
Wisconsin (11-3-4, 6-2-4 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) is clearly the favorite of the tournament, even though they will be without coach Mike Eaves and three of its top freshmen. They are currently riding the momentum of a nation-leading 14-game unbeaten streak and are ranked fourth in the national polls.
Assistant coach Troy Ward will step into the position of head coach for the next few weeks as Eaves and freshmen Jake Dowell, Ryan Suter, and Jeff Likens are in Finland with the 2004 United States National Junior Team. The loss of these players could be enough to derail the Badgers' current streak, but the remaining players and coaches seem confident about the weeks ahead.
"I think the fact that we have a chance to continue something that we have started a couple of months ago is a unique opportunity," Ward said. "And the criticalness of it for me is the fact that we are going to have some new players come into the lineup and I think my ultimate challenge is to get those guys to overachieve and play to the best of their abilities."
The Badgers are led by the line of senior Rene Bourque, sophomore Ryan MacMurchy, and freshman Andrew Joudrey. Bourque and MacMurchy each have 16 points while Joudrey has 13 on yet another young team in this tournament. Junior goalie Bernd Bruckler is arguably the most valuable player on the team. He is 9-3-4 and allows just 2.31 goals per game.
The story of the tournament will be how well Wisconsin deals with the absence of three of its players and its head coach. They have enough depth that the situation should not be a problem, but with three regular starters out of the lineup, the team's chemistry could be a challenge.