USHL experience boosted Pavelski

Forward has been a top scoring option in two seasons with the Badgers

Joe Pavelski, a sophomore forward on the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team, led the Badgers in scoring as a rookie. But he didn't always have the scoring finesse Wisconsin fans see on the ice.

Pavelski didn't really begin to develop into a scoring phenom until he played for Waterloo of the United States Hockey League. It was in the USHL that Pavelski began to transform into the hockey player that Wisconsin fans see today.

In just his first season with the Black Hawks, Pavelski was named a USHL First-Team All-Star and the USHL Rookie of the Year after ranking second on the team with 52 points (21 goals, 31 assists) in just 54 games.

The next season proved that Pavelski was not a fluke, as he led the Black Hawks to their first Eastern League Division title with a league-leading 36 goals and a team-best 69 points. More importantly, Pavelski helped lead his team to a USHL Championship.

"Winning the championship that year, it was just unbelievable with the run we had," Pavelski said.

For Pavelski, the time he spent in the USHL gave him the maturity to compete at the college level.

"[My time in the USHL] was amazing," Pavelski said. "It helped me learn about the game even more, especially playing 60-70 games. It just gave me the maturity of being a leader in the locker room…

"That whole organization definitely taught me a lot, especially coach P.K. O'Handley. P.K. O'Handley had such an influence on my career.

"I lived with P.K. and his wife that last couple months of the season and it was the best time of my life. The things I learned couldn't be taught anywhere else."

Pavelski's success in the USHL carried over to Wisconsin. He scored 45 points last season to become the first freshman since Dany Heatley (1999-2000) to lead the Badgers in scoring.

Pavelski's play earned him a selection to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Rookie Team and the All-Rookie Team.

Despite his lack of blazing speed, Pavelski was able to develop into a prolific player because of his work ethic and ability to find his teammates on the ice.

"Joe understands that he needs to have a physical presence in certain areas, but I am not going to ask him to have 18 hits a game," UW coach Mike Eaves said. "His ability to read the ice, make plays and be smart is what we need. He doesn't have the blazing speed a Robbie Earl has, but he has the ability to think and anticipate where the puck is going to go and that makes him faster."

To go along with the 16 goals Pavelski netted during his freshman season, he also was able to make plays to benefit his linemates, registering 29 assists. Many of those helpers found Earl, who had a career-best 20 goals last season.

This season, Pavelski and Earl lead the team with 13 points. Pavelski leads the team in goals (6); Earl in assists (9). According to Earl, Pavelski's ability and vision on the ice have made the duo one of the scoring forces in the WCHA.

"Joe has such great ability and I think that's what makes us such a dominant duo," Earl said. "It's fun having a teammate who is right there with you and we feed off each other really well.

"It's been clicking and you could say that we know where each other is [on the ice]. It's fun to play with him because he's a great player."

With every game Pavelski plays he shows that the San Jose Sharks got a bargain when they selected him in the seventh round in the 2003 NHL Draft. Over the past two seasons at Wisconsin, Pavelski has developed into a premier athlete by learning how he can better himself and the team every time he hits the ice.

"Joe is a real student of the game in all facets of the game in terms of his ability to see the little things that make the game work," Eaves said. "He and Robbie [Earl] will actually go on the ice during the course of the day and work on little plays so when they happen in the course of the game, they have already encounter [the situation].

"He's a student of the game in terms of looking at video to find out what he can do at a higher level and in terms of mental preparation to make sure he is finding his ideal performance state. … He does all of those things that… give him the best chance to be the best hockey player that he can."

What: Minnesota State (2-4-2 WCHA, 2-6-2 overall) at No. 2 Wisconsin (6-0-2, 7-1-2)
When: Saturday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20, 8 p.m.
Site: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: Both contests will be broadcast live on TV on FSN North and will be carried live on the radio by 1310 WIBA-AM
Series notes: Wisconsin leads the all-time series 11-7-2 and leads 7-2-1 in Madison. The two teams split their only series last season in Mankato. The teams have played in seven overtimes in their 20 games, with the Badgers going 2-3-2 in those contests.

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