Spirit of success

Senior tri-captain and leading scorer Rene Bourque personifies the Badgers' winning ways

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When looking for the spirit of the Wisconsin men's hockey team, look no further then senior tri-captain Rene Bourque.


Yes, the Badgers' most valuable player, and a strong candidate for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's MVP, is junior goaltender Bernd Bruckler, without a doubt the team's backbone.


Yes, Mike Eaves and the Wisconsin coaching staff's Midas touch, and a very talented cadre of freshmen and sophomores, are the standard bearers for the quick revival of a proud program that a year ago suffered through its worst season in 27 years.


Bourque, though, personifies the Badgers' character; their gritty determination to succeed. This was not supposed to be one of the top teams in the WCHA and Bourque, despite his evident skills, does not fit the visage of a team's typical leading scorer, especially on one of the nation's best teams.


As Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves has said numerous times, the Badgers do not have many players with the "magic" necessary to light up a rink. What they do have is players like Bourque, whose solid all-around abilities stood out to Eaves and associate head coach Troy Ward when they first stepped on the ice with their new team, prior to last season.


"The word ‘potential' comes to mind," Ward said. "We figured that based on size and strength and experience in the league and his puck skills … We felt that he was going to be one, two or three on our team always. It has worked out where he has been No. 1 and I guess that isn't a real shock because of some of the things that he had: his ability to release the puck, get it on net. … It has certainly been something that we've noticed since day one, when we first stepped on the ice two years ago, that he would probably be one of our leading scorers."


In addition, Bourque is a team leader and an extremely consistent player, having scored at least a point in all but two series this season. Plus, he has steadily improved his production throughout his career. Just another wing his freshman and sophomore seasons, Bourque tallied 15 points his freshman year, including seven goals and five assists in the last nine games of the campaign.


He followed that with 19 points his second year and a team-high 19 goals and 27 points last season.


"We had a really good team my first couple years here and I didn't see too much ice time," Bourque said. "When Coach Eaves came here he gave me a chance to play."


Bourque is again leading the team in scoring this season with 33 points and is tied for the team high with freshman forward Robbie Earl and sophomore forward Ryan MacMurchy with 14 goals.


"I play with some really good players in ‘Mac' and (freshman center Andrew) Joudrey," Bourque said, explaining why he is again leading the team in scoring. "We play well together, we kind of compliment each other."


Playing on a line with MacMurchy is a big reason why Bourque has become just as much a play maker as a goal-scoring threat this season. Joudrey, another table-setter who is third on the team with 14 assists, completes a top line that produces more through hard work than nifty puck skills.


"We don't have the pure Johnny Byce on this team right now or certain guys from the old days that…just sniped a lot of goals for this Wisconsin program," Ward said. "And (Bourque) doesn't personify that either. He does personify a Ryan MacMurchy-type guy, and we've got a (freshman center Jake) Dowell and Joudrey and these younger guys that kind of personify the same thing. Now, over time they might develop into that but right now I think he personifies our team."


A defensive-minded team averaging just under three goals per game, the Badgers are not exactly tearing up the rinks offensively, but have improved their goal scoring from just 2.27 per contest last season.


"We've been getting scoring from a lot of different people at any one time and maybe that's been our biggest strength," Ward said. "It is not like we always rely on Rene. I think there is a good under cast underneath him that are anywhere from 15 to 23 points that are doing a good job for the program."

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