Men's hockey: Badgers skate to St. Cloud

Wisconsin gears up for first road trip

To many rookies, this weekend's road trip to St. Cloud, Minn., to open Western Collegiate Hockey Association competition would be a daunting task. But with their junior hockey and National Team Developmental Program experience, the Wisconsin freshmen are primed and ready to go.

Just ask freshman forward Ben Street, who spent two seasons with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League before joining the Badger squad this season.

"There's a lot of bus trips — up to about 14 hours on the bus," Street said. "This will be a walk in the park for me."

A 14-hour bus trip might make this week's five-and-a-half hour drive a little less overwhelming.

Still, UW captain Adam Burish remembers his first road trip and knows that he and the rest of the veterans will have to help the younger players out this weekend.

"There may be a few jitters early on, but we'll sit them down and tell them to relax," Burish said. "After playing at the Kohl Center for your first game with 12,000 fans, that's more nerve-racking than going on the road."

Making the weekend even tougher on the rookies is the opening of the WCHA season. Both teams will be looking to tally some early points in the league that filled the Frozen Four last spring.

While it is easy to look ahead to series with North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado College and defending national champion Denver, the Badgers know they cannot overlook a team like St. Cloud State.

"Everybody who's been here knows that whether it's Alaska-Anchorage, St. Cloud or Minnesota, anybody can win on any night," Burish said.

In fact, Wisconsin is just 11-9-3 when playing at St. Cloud. Part of that record may be attributed to the Husky faithful, and the captains have warned the freshmen about the atmosphere.

While the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud holds less than 6,000 fans, they usually fill the arena, and with this series marking the Huskies' home-opener, one would expect a capacity crowd.

"It's kind of a wild atmosphere — it gets real loud in there," Burish said. "It's a small building, but it gets real loud and they sell out their student section."

It will also be the first home series for new head coach Bob Motzko, who took over when Craig Dahl stepped down before the season.

The Huskies, who return all but four letter-winners from last season, split with Northern Michigan last weekend in their season-opener. Senior forward Joe Jensen led the way with two goals while sophomore Andrew Gordon had one goal and two assists.

"They're a tough group of guys — that's just how they play," Burish said. "They'll make you earn every inch you want on the ice."

The Badgers had last weekend off, following a split with St. Lawrence to open their season.

The biggest question coming out of that series was the same one the Badgers ended last season with: Where is the scoring? Wisconsin mustered up just four goals against St. Lawrence, so the week off might have been good for the Badgers.

"It was good for the main reason that we played so poorly on Saturday night," Burish said. "It gave us some time to forget about that."

Street, who was one of the four Badgers to score in the opening weekend — fellow freshman Jack Skille was another — said the extra week off will not hurt the momentum he picked up in his debut weekend.

"It was great to get the first goal out of the way," Street said. "It's something that most players are used to. We've had two good weeks of practice and the tempo hasn't slowed down at all so we'll be fine."

This weekend should be a worthy test for the Badgers. Going into a fiery environment against another league opponent looking to start the season off on the right foot, the series will be a good measuring stick of where the team will fit into the WCHA picture early on in the year.

"In the WCHA, teams really stress winning at home and trying to steal at least two or three points on the road," Burish said. "If you can do that, you're going to find yourself at the top of the league."

What: No. 13 Wisconsin (1-1) at St. Cloud State (1-1)
When: Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m.
Site: National Hockey Center, St. Cloud, Minn.
Broadcasts: Both games will be televised live on Fox Sports North. Friday night's game can be heard on WIBA 1310 AM and Saturday night's game can be heard on WTSO 1070 AM.
Series notes: Wisconsin leads all-time 31-20-6 and leads 11-9-3 at St. Cloud. The Badgers are on a three-game winning streak against the Huskies and went 3-0-1 against them a year ago.

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