Men's hockey notes: Role model

Frustrating time for Elliott; good advice; backup plan; avert your eyes

Long before circumstance thrust him into Wisconsin's starting lineup, freshman goalie Shane Connelly looked at junior netminder Brian Elliott as a role model.

"I've watched a lot of Elliott doing everything," Connelly said. "In the locker room he's really just low key and nothing seems to phase him. That's kind of what I've been trying to work on, just trying to block everything out."

Connelly could do worse than emulating Elliott. The Badgers' netminder for all 22 games so far this season, Elliott has compiled a 1.40 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. But with Elliott out 3-4 weeks due to a left knee or ankle injury, Connelly has to step into the fold for No. 1 Wisconsin.

In a way, Connelly has looked up to Elliott because of their similar experiences. Elliott had a very difficult time getting into Wisconsin's lineup his freshman and sophomore seasons, while playing behind star goalie Bernd Bruckler.

"It's been nice talking to him and just looking at his story, how it's worked out really," Connelly said.

Good advice

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves recalled Thursday some advice that he had once heard a goaltending coach provide a goaltender.

"You don't have to be perfect," Eaves said. "Stop the ones you should, stop three out of the five of the ones you shouldn't and we'll be fine."

When Eaves was asked if he felt Connelly was mentally ready to start against Denver Friday night, he hesitated for a moment, then alluded to Connelly's only game action as a Badger: an exhibition game versus Team USA U-18. Connelly gave up five goals in that game, but the Badgers won 6-5.

"It's different than the last time he went in because he's the guy right now," Eaves said. "There's a switch that might go on where he says, ‘You know what? This is it for me. I have to help my teammates.' And perhaps that will be an edge that he will have this weekend."

Backup plan

With Connelly on the ice, the Badgers' reserve goaltenders are freshman walk-ons Jeff Henderson and Ryan Jeffery. Both will dress and sit on UW's bench this weekend. If UW needs a fill-in for Connelly, the first option would be Henderson.

Avert your eyes

Connelly said his dad will watch his Friday debut on television. His mom has other plans.

"My mom's actually going to see my sister play," Connelly said with a smile. "She thinks that's best for her if she can just stay away from the TV and the game."

Connelly's sister, Caitlin, is a junior goaltender at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

Frustrating time for Elliott

One man's opportunity is another man's agony. In the preseason, Elliott worked his way back from a right foot injury and got himself ready to play when the season began. Taking over for Bruckler, he quickly went from Wisconsin's biggest question mark to its top All-American candidate.

Wednesday's injury in practice changed all of that in a heartbeat. After befuddling opponents throughout what has been a brilliant season—only twice in 22 games did Elliott allow more than two goals in a game—Elliott is on the shelf, forced to watch the games while rehabbing his injury.

"Well I think he was very frustrated (Wednesday) night," goaltending coach Bill Howard said. "We've talked at great length. Injuries are part of sports and he was injured in the fall and came back and never had a problem. I think as he goes along—he's a focused kid—he'll rehab, he'll be back as quick as any athlete can be. And like I said to him, when you get back it's not going to be a big deal. We just pick up where you left off."

Badger Nation Top Stories