Ranking could slip, but UW unconcerned

Wisconsin focused on growth and improvement, as exhibited in its 3-1 win over Michigan Saturday

MADISON—As the second-ranked University of Wisconsin men's hockey team put the finishing touches on a 3-1 win over top-ranked Michigan Saturday night, a fitting cheer poured from the crowd of 13,966 at the Kohl Center: "Overrated! Overrated!"

It is a chant heard so often when a higher ranked team falls it is often placid. Saturday, though, the Wolverines took it to heart.

"Well, the fans were right," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "We are overrated. No question about that."

The Badgers' win was sweet vindication after Michigan State pummeled them 4-0 Friday night. Michigan (9-4-1), on the other hand, was swept in the College Hockey Showcase, losing 5-1 to Minnesota Friday night.

"We didn't measure up to Minnesota and Wisconsin," Berenson said.

Fact is, however, that Kohl Center cheer could just as easily have applied to the home team, which played its worst hockey of the year Friday night after rising to No. 2 in the nation but rebounded emphatically Saturday.

"There are other things that are more of a priority [than rankings]," Badger coach Mike Eaves said. "Our growth as a team, our growth on the individual basis of our young defensemen and our young forwards and getting us to the next level."

Wisconsin (10-4-0) took another step forward Saturday. After dominating the first period, Michigan tied the game at 1-1 at the 18:41 mark and went on the man-advantage 35 seconds later. Wisconsin, though, killed that power play—which extended 76 seconds into the second period—and another early-second period five-on-four to keep the game tied.

After allowing two power-play goals Friday night, Wisconsin held Michigan to just six shots and zero goals on five power plays.

"We just had a great attention to detail on the kills tonight," sophomore center Andrew Joudrey said.

Wisconsin played with passion Saturday, in stark contrast to the previous night's performance. Junior wing Adam Burish's power play goal at 11:10 in the second period gave them the lead for good and Joudrey's short-handed tally six minutes later iced it.

"We were angry with our effort last night and just were happy that we had a chance to come out again tonight and really prove to ourselves that this is our house and we are a good team," UW senior goaltender Bernd Bruckler said.

Bruckler made 23 saves and allowed just one goal for his seventh win of the season. Sophomore center Jake Dowell scored his seventh goal of the year at 12:56 in the first period to get the Badgers on the board; he had six goals all of last season.

"One of the more enjoyable things to watch is a group respond like that and get going in the right direction," Eaves said.

Despite beating the No. 1 team in last weeks' polls, the Badgers will likely fall in this week's rankings, to be announced Monday, after their Showcase split. Minnesota, last week's No. 3, will be No. 1 after thrashing Michigan and Michigan State by a combined 10-1.

Eaves said that he was surprised that his team—which had 13 freshmen and sophomores in the lineup Saturday—has been ranked so high all season.

"It's like a young baby growing. By the end of the year that's when you want to be mature and have that top ranking," Eaves said. "As a coach we talk about this very little…

"Last year it was a point of emphasis because we were trying establish ourselves and we were going to hold onto anything that gave us credibility. But now it's not such a big thing for us."

Beating Michigan Saturday night was the big thing for the Badgers.

"It just proves to us that we can play with anybody in the country, especially with the response from last night's poor effort," Joudrey said.

Wisconsin next hosts Minnesota-Duluth (7-5-2) Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. The Bulldogs, the preseason favorite to win the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, are just 2-5-1 in their last eight games.

Badger Nation Top Stories