Wisconsin, Michigan will look to rebound

Top two ranked teams in the country try to fight back after tough losses Friday night

The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation will grace the Kohl Center ice Saturday after getting pummeled Friday night, in their respective first game of the College Hockey Showcase.

Michigan was embarrassed 5-1 at No. 3 Minnesota, while the same can be said for Wisconsin's hospitality for visiting Michigan State. The Spartans blanked UW 4-0.

"It was like we were in a fog all night," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said after his team's loss.

Expect two motivated teams when the puck drops at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at the Kohl Center. Each team entered the weekend riding a four-game winning streak and is not going to be pleased with the prospect of losing a couple of key games.

Despite Friday's follies, the Saturday event remains marquee, especially in net. Both Wisconsin senior Bernd Bruckler and Michigan junior Al Montoya received some All-American acclaim last season and are favorites for similar awards this year.

"We were talking to [Bruckler] on the way home on the plane [Sunday from Alaska-Anchorage]," UW junior wing Adam Burish said Monday. "‘Bruckler/Montoya matchup, who's going to be better?' ‘Bruck, this is a big test for you, better be ready this weekend.'

"He's like, ‘yeah, yeah, whatever. It's just another game.' He'll look at it as just another game and just prepare the same way. He won't get caught up in that stuff."

"Just our guys because they know he's a quality goaltender. Obviously they want to give me a hard time and just get the best out of me," Bruckler said Wednesday.

After a slow start, Bruckler has put it together, allowing just three goals in his last three starts (3-0) and now boasts a 2.53 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. He spelled backup Brian Elliot Friday night and allowed one goal in 33:43.

"It's just a thing similar to last year where I got off to a slow start and really the bounces weren't going my way, I don't think," Bruckler said. "That's part of it. And I started feeling better and better as practice went along."

Montoya has established himself as one of the premiere young goaltenders not just in college hockey but in the world. The sixth overall pick in last June's NHL Draft, Montoya helped lead the U.S. Junior National Team to its first gold medal at the 2003-04 Junior World Championships.

Montoya has started every game for the Wolverines this season and boasts a 9-3-1 record and 2.67 goals against average. His save percentage, however, has dropped to .893 after allowing five goals on 26 shots in two periods Saturday night, prior to getting yanked.

"Obviously when you are facing against a top goalie you want to throw the pucks at him, you want to bury the top goalie," Burish said. "He's kind of fresh meat in the net. That's the way we kind look at it. We want to get after him. We're going to get pucks to the net.

"We're going to score some gritty goals, some of them are going to be ugly. But that's the kind of mentality you have to have. You've got to pay a price to get to this kid. You've got to get to the net and take his eyes away. That's how you are going to score goals against him."

Montoya and Bruckler will be challenged by two of the nation's top scoring offenses, even if neither showed up Friday night.

Bruckler has to face a Michigan squad averaging 3.85 goals per game. Six Wolverines already have scored double-figure points this season, led by sophomore forward T.J. Hensick (6 goals, 10 assists), junior forward Jeff Tambellini (6, 9), senior forward Milan Gajic (6, 6) and senior defenseman Eric Werner (3, 7).

Wisconsin is tenth in the nation at 3.69 goals per game and also has six players in double figures, paced by sophomore forward Robbie Earl (7 goals, 11 assists) and freshman forward Joe Pavelski (6, 10).

"It will be a good test for me," Earl said Wednesday. "He's a great goalie, there's no doubt about that. We'll see what kind of night it is and how many shots I get on him."

What: No. 2 Wisconsin (9-4-0 overall, 7-3-0 WCHA) versus No. 1 Michigan (9-3-1 overall, 7-1-0 CCHA), College Hockey Showcase
When: Saturday, Nov. 27 at 7:07 p.m.
Broadcasts: Live TV on UPN, tape-delayed by Wisconsin Public Television. Live radio on WIBA-AM 1310 in Madison. The game can be viewed live on the Web at UWBadgers.com
Series notes: Wisconsin is 48-60-7 all-time versus Michigan. Prior to last season, the Badgers had not beaten the Wolverines since Jan. 10, 1981.

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