‘Springboard' for season

Badgers hope Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic provides momentum for stretch run

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The 40,000 fans that came here will never forget watching the Badgers beat Ohio State 4-2 in the historical Frozen Tundra game played outdoors at Lambeau Field on Saturday afternoon.

"Unless you were in that dressing room and around the whole thing you can't describe it," Badger captain Adam Burish said.

Everyone agreed there were enough memorable moments to last a lifetime, including the entire team attempting a Lambeau leap by jumping into the stands after their victory, but the impact Saturday's win will have over the Badgers' current season cannot be overlooked.

Wisconsin spent the past few weeks searching for something to celebrate. They lost five of their last six games, including four straight losses at home to Denver and Minnesota, and had to put freshman goalie Shane Connelly in the net instead of their reliable star Brian Elliott, who suffered a painful left knee injury before UW's losing skid began.

After winning the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game at Lambeau Saturday, the Badgers can at last look at the final stretch of their regular season with great hope.

"We looked at it as a springboard here for the rest of our season," Burish said. "It was an important game. Guys were saying, ‘This is a must win, let's have this one, we've got to have this effort tonight.'"

Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves echoed his players' sentiments that a win in Lambeau would give them a boost for the stretch run of the 2005-06 season.

"This time of the year is kind of like the dog days of the season," Eaves said. "These are long times so this week was unique in the energy that I think it brought to this team. It will springboard us into our last few weekends of the regular season and the playoffs."

The Badgers came out of the tunnel and attacked early.

Burish scored the first hockey goal ever in Lambeau field just 23 seconds into the game. Ohio State played tough and kept the game within reach until UW's left wing Robbie Earl skated the puck into an empty net in the final minute and gave the Badgers a 4-2 lead.

Beating Ohio State will not help the Badgers' standing in the WCHA, where they are currently trailing two points behind Denver and one point behind Minnesota in the race for the MacNaughton Cup. Nevertheless, Saturday's win sent the Badgers back to Madison bursting with confidence.

"That will be the biggest thing from this," Eaves said. "The fact that it was a game that doesn't really help us in the WCHA but the energy that it gives us and the fact that we won."

The Badgers (20-7-2 overall, 14-6-2 WCHA) look forward to the coming weeks. Although they do not return home to the Kohl Center until March, Wisconsin boasts a 10-1-1 record on the road and Elliott is expected to return for their next game at Michigan Tech (7-19-4, 6-12-4) on Feb. 17. After two games against the Huskies (Feb. 17-18), the Badgers travel to face Minnesota State (12-16-4, 8-13-3) Feb. 24-25.

With all that in mind, the Badgers will tackle the end of their 2005-06 regular season riding their win in Packer country.

"Guys are so excited, they can't stop smiling or laughing or high fiving in the locker room," Burish said. "That's something that you carry into the next few weeks of practice. It's going to carry on all next week. Guys will be excited to see each other on Monday in practice and get back to playing again."

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