After playing the last eight games against ranked opponents, going 2-5-1 during that stretch, the Badgers are in for another tough, and ranked, test this weekend when the Wisconsin hockey team skates against the No.10 St. Cloud State Huskies.
It has been two weeks since the Badgers played at the Kohl Center traveling to Colorado College and the College Hockey Showdown in Michigan. After being swept by CC, losing to Michigan and salvaging a tie with Michigan State, Wisconsin has one thing on their minds – getting back to winning.
With the Huskies in town, however, the Badgers will have their work cut out for them and St. Cloud's two skillful scorers, sophomore Ryan Lasch and freshman Garrett Roe, who are both tied for second in the national standings with 20 points.
Lasch and Roe have been the Huskies go-to-guys and have helped St. Cloud State develop one of the most potent offenses in the conference – scoring a league best 3.75 goals per game and over 24 percent on the power play, also tops in the league.
If they aren't prepared, the Huskies could jump on the Badgers quickly – leading the conference with 17 first-period goals.
But if Wisconsin thinks the Huskies are all offense, they haven't had a good look at the eight-ranked goalie in the nation, Jase Weslosky, who has a save percentage of .940 and junior John Swanson, who was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week.
The series against SCSU is going to test the Badgers and their struggles so far with "two way hockey." In a majority of their games so far this season, Wisconsin has come out fast and upbeat at the start, getting a lot of shots off that are not going into the back of the net. Getting quick goals early in the first period is going to be a must for the Badgers to dominate against the Huskies, as a quick start is going to help the young guns on the team settle down and focus on their own game.
"Real basically, it's just taking what's given and executing against lack of time and space," head coach Mike Eaves said. "When we were being successful, we were playing against teams that gave us a little bit more time and space, and now we're dealing with teams that are really taking that away. The nice thing is we are getting chances (to score)."
If the Badgers hope to get a jump on the Huskies, Wisconsin will need contributions from its large and talented freshman class. After scoring 14 goals combined in the team's first eight games, the group has only scored one tally in the last four. Against Michigan State, the Badgers had sophomore Scott Gudmanson in the net against Michigan State instead of the usual Connelly, as Eaves gave the young freshman his second start and tried out new combinations to help the Badgers break a four-game skid.
Whatever the reason, the Badgers stormed back to salvage a tie against the Spartans and have history on their side against the Huskies, as the Badgers haven't dropped a game in their last 11 meetings against SCSU.
"I was just reading that. I am surprised by that," Eaves said. "But I know that we have played some decent hockey against them, and we're at a point where, we don't look at that as anything other than we played well Saturday night. We need to do well here Friday/Saturday."
No.10 St. Cloud State (7-3-2, 3-2-1 WCHA) at No.13 Wisconsin (5-6-1, 2-4-1)
Date/Time - Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:07 p.m. CST
Arena – Kohl Center (15,237)
Television - Friday (FSN North) and Saturday (My Madison TV) with Paul Braun and Rob Andringa.
Tape-Delay TV: Wisconsin Public Television at 10:30 p.m. (with Robb Vogel and Ron Vincent)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Brian Posick, Bill Howard)
Series – Wisconsin leads 36-20-8 overall and 24-10-4 in Madison