Elliott injured at practice

Wisconsin goaltender's status for this weekend's series with Denver is unknown

Nearly everything has gone right for the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team this season. Wednesday, though, goalie Brian Elliott, the best player on the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation, had to be helped off the ice after a teammate collided with him during practice.

The extent of Elliott's injury, believed to be to his left ankle or lower leg, is unknown and his status for the Badgers' series with No. 19 Denver at the Kohl Center this weekend is uncertain.

"I don't know what the situation is, and as you know we can't talk about it," said UW coach Mike Eaves, referring to privacy regulations that limit the amount of injury information that can be released. "But it didn't look good when a guy can't go off the ice on his own."

Eaves said it was not possible to know Elliott's status for this weekend, but after practice he spoke to the team about persevering if they need to move on without their star goaltender, who has an incredible 1.40 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage this season.

"We talked about we knew we were going to hit some storms on this journey and we've hit a storm if that's the case," Eaves said.

Elliott has started in net for all 22 of the Badgers' regular-season games, compiling an 18-2-2 record. Wisconsin is 13-1-2 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, its 28 league points eight more than Denver and Minnesota, who are tied for second place.

Reserve goaltender Shane Connelly, who was set to meet with Eaves after practice Wednesday, has played just once all year—in the Badgers' 6-5 exhibition win over Team USA's National Team Development Program U-18 squad. Connelly made 19 saves and struggled in the outing.

Elliott is second in the nation in save percentage and goals against average and third in minutes played.

Yet despite the possibility of missing arguably college hockey's best player this season, the Badgers remained extremely confident Wednesday evening.

"It's a group of guys that are already kind of talking, ‘Here we go. Let's be ready to rock and roll now,'" senior captain Adam Burish said. "So it's not like a panic. It's not like everybody's in there crying or hanging their heads. It's more, it's excited. Guys are excited now. This is another challenge. Like coach said after practice, ‘This is a storm. This is another storm that we're going to have to encounter.' Along the way he uses the analogy of we're climbing a mountain. We're climbing a mountain here and we're trying to get to the top. On the way up you are going to have these storms."

Sophomore center Joe Pavelski expressed a similar sentiment.

"The thing is, we know that we're going to go through storms along this trip to the top," Pavelski said. "It's just another unfortunate thing that's going to happen. We don't know how serious it is or what it is exactly. But I mean we've got Connelly and we're going to have just as much confidence in him. We're just going to come out, we're going to play the same defense, same offense and we're just going to go after it."

After practice, Burish visited Elliott in the trainer's room.

"He was upset," Burish said. "He was upset. He goes, ‘I don't know how long it's going to be, I don't know exactly what's wrong. I'm going to see the doctor right now'…

"Obviously he's a competitive kid and he doesn't want to have to miss any time. He doesn't want to miss a game. He doesn't want to miss a practice. Obviously that's just his nature. He gets scored on in practice he's mad. So now if he's got to miss a practice and a game he's going to be extra upset."

For his part, Connelly said that Elliott's injury does not change his attitude in practice. He needs to remain sharp and continue preparing as he has all season—preparing, that is, to play if Elliott was out of the lineup.

"I feel ready. I've been through enough," Connelly said. "It's January already and I've learned a lot from watching Brian and everything through this year. I have enough confidence in myself that if my time is coming, then I'm ready for it."

Release party: Wisconsin is No. 1 in the first unveiling of the PairWise rankings, posted at USCHO.com Wednesday. Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, Colorado College and Michigan State round out the top five. The rankings attempt to mimic the NCAA Tournament's selection criteria.

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