Wisconsin stepped it up Saturday against Michigan Tech to win 4-2, taking out some of their frustrations that they suffered during its Friday night loss – a loss was a wake up call for a majority of the freshmen.
"It was definitely a wake up call on Friday Night and playing against Notre Dame, Ohio State and Robert Morris," freshman Sean Dolan said. "I'd say there was a lot more physical play this weekend and my eyes were definitely wide open on Friday night."
College hockey is faster, harder and stronger from the leagues these young guys played in prior to the WCHA. Not to sound like a broken record player but Wisconsin is young unit; a group that has a lot of time to grow together on the ice. The way the young Badgers took a hard loss and turned the next game into a well earned win is a feet on its own. This turn around shows the potential this team has.
The defense was night and day from Friday to Saturday. Wisconsin's attacked the puck instead of chasing it, which was their biggest problem Friday. The entire game Friday night, the defense seemed to be a second behind but not Saturday. Wisconsin kept on the puck and stopped passes that on Friday night would have been completed for a shot on goal. The Badgers won the puck battles especially in the corners, which produced a lot of chances for shots on goal.
"We won more puck battles," head coach Mike Eaves said. "Last night we had a tremendous amount of hits which is a good sign of hard, but there are many areas of hard and the area we were poor in last night, was our ability, on a 50/50 puck or when we were a scrum to come out with that puck."
UW junior goalie Shane Connelly looked more like himself Saturday with 18 saves on 20 attempts. He rendered huge saves that dishearten Michigan Tech and engineered a defense that kept their heads in the game and committed to their positions. If the defense keeps up the hard work they produced tonight, next week's opponent (North Dakota) better be on guard. Wisconsin not only has a killer offense but the defense is a force to be reckoned with.
"Our (defense) has been doing a pretty good job getting the pucks in the net and finding ways to get the pucks in the net so there are rebounds," senior defenseman Kyle Klubertanz said "We have been doing a good job so far."
The line of John Mitchell, Sean Dolan, and Matthew Ford proved to be a valuable asset. They work well together and move the puck swiftly from one to the other. Dolan scored the first goal of the night off the assists from Mitchell and Ford.
"We try to keep it as simple as possible and we have such good sides on our line that it just helps us out so much and we pride ourselves on working hard every night and every shift we get out there," said Dolan.
Every game, Wisconsin's gets stronger and progressive. Live games situations arise issues that are not always practiced and good teams capitalize on those situations. Saturday's game demonstrates how the Badgers are taking lessons from one night, learning from them and applying them the next night. Even the Badger bench was standing intensely watching the game, being just as involved as the six Badgers on the ice.
Wisconsin is truly a team that wants every single guy on the ice to perform for the betterment of the team.
"It is a learning lesson to come and play as we did and we earned the victory tonight and it was important for us to do that," Eaves stated.
This weekend was the simple case of Wisconsin trying to do too much in game one but, returning back to the never failing basics in game two. Saturday night's game felt like déjà vu but with the roles reversed. Wisconsin kept ahead of the Huskies instead of playing catch up. Michigan Tech even pulled their goalie at the end of the third period for a last ditch effort with the Badgers adding an empty net goal in the waning seconds.
For the Badgers, this was a confidence win, showing this team what things can be learned from one night to the next. The making of a team is not an overnight success and now, the team can move forward working on the small details they need to improve on. The key is to keep on working.
"We got a young team that's got to understand that if we are going to have a foundation for becoming a winning team," Eaves said, "we have to establish that we are going to win by doing the hard things first."