Wisconsin Hockey Preview: Unknown Commodity

A Madison-native who walked onto the hockey team in 2005, Ryan Jeffery may never see action on the ice, but his impact on the program and its players can be seen throughout Wisconsin hockey.

MADISON - Every time Shane Connelly makes an amazing save or Michael Davies beats an opposing goalie top shelf, the Kohl Center crowd hoots and hollers in appreciation.

After the game is over, those same players seek out senior goalie Ryan Jeffery for helping them prepare for another opponent.

Jeffery, a walk-on goalie from Madison Memorial High School, has been working behind the scenes, along with fellow-senior walk-on Jeff Henderson, to make the Badgers the best they can be each and every game.

Entering his final season, Jeffery is looking forward to another year on his boyhood team and, with a hint from head coach Mike Eaves, might get a chance to hit the ice.

What were some of the things you've learned about yourself as you have progressed at Wisconsin, hockey wise or not?

Just controlling myself when I am playing and being in control of the game. I've tried to redirect rebounds so I get them to go where I want them to go and be good with the rebounds overall. More than anything, just be in control of the game, the pace of the game and let the puck come to me. The biggest thing is controlling what I can control.

Talking to Eaves before the season, he said that he was apprehensive about carrying a fourth goalie for the season because of obvious limitations with the roster. He said that he looked at the two seniors and that you guys brought so much to the table off the ice that it was important to keep you both on the roster. How important is that when you hear something like that?

Obviously it meant a lot. I think both me and Jeff (Henderson) mean a lot for this team. Obviously, there are a lot of things you can't see on the ice, but a lot of things off ice, at practice and in the locker room and just being there for the freshmen, I think that's a big part of being a team. I mean, I hope coach feels that way and I am glad he does because I feel we are a big cornerstone of this team. Even though you can't see us on the ice in games, behind the scenes I think we do a lot for this team in that respect.

Growing up in the area, was it always a dream for you to be apart of this team?

Oh sure. My dad used to bring me to Badger games when I was young and I was always a big Badger fan. I didn't know if I always thought it was possible to play for them but when I got to high school, I thought that I might get the chance. Given the chance, I came out here and made the most of it and I am really happy with how it has worked out. It had been a pretty big dream for me to come out and wear the red and white everyday.

Talk about Shane Connelly. You two have seen a lot of each other over the years. Can you talk about how he has progressed to the level he is at now?

He is more level headed now than he used to be. He's a lot more confident with who he is as a goalie and I see that everyday with how he practices and in the locker room. You can tell the type of player he has become because he carries himself with a lot more confidence than he did before. I am not saying he didn't use to, but now he has gotten to the level where he knows he is going to go out in a game and play well. I think this year will be exciting for him and it'll be exciting to back him up again as well.

Is it weird not having Coach Howard here?

You know, it is a little strange. I've gotten use to having him in the locker room the last three years. I think we have adapted pretty well and that we're comfortable without him. I mean, he's been with this team for 20-something years and when you think about Wisconsin goalies, you think about Coach Howard. It is a little strange not having him but at the same time, we are going to be moving on and with Shane and Scott (Gudmanson), we're going to OK.

This team has always been a one-series-at-a-time team but it's hard not to look ahead at your first couple series. Wisconsin is setting the bar high right away. How is the team not just approaching this weekend, but all these weekends in a row?

We have to take it one game at a time. That's what you have to do. When you look at and see teams like BC, North Dakota and Minnesota, you have to take it one game at a time, one play at a time and build off the mistakes and the things you did well. Right now, we're just preparing for our first game and after that, we are going to go from there and hopefully it is something we can build off of.

Eaves alluded in his press conference that if the time presents itself, he's going to try to get you and Jeff in a game. Have you thought about what that experience will be like … ?

Oh yeah. I think about that all the time in practice, wanting to get out here in front of fans and play. I think that would be an awesome experience and I think I am ready. I have been around here long enough and watched the games that I think that if I got into a game situation, I would be ready and I'd perform well. If only that opportunity arose, I'd be more than happy.

If that opportunity doesn't come, are there going to be any regrets?

Absolutely not. Coach brought me here, saying that there probably won't be an opportunity to get me into a game and I am happy being a walk-on goalie, a member of this team and just being here for pride everyday. If it doesn't come up, that's fine with me. Of course, it would be awesome if it did but if it doesn't, there are no regrets at all.

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