Preview: Looking for Number One

With the Badgers in their longest winless streak since the 1930s, Wisconsin knows that staying true to its strengths is the only way the Badgers will earn a least one victory over the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

MADISON - When the schedule came out, the youthful Wisconsin hockey team knew that they were in for a fight the first four series of the season. While the play has been solid and sporadic at times, the record speaks for itself.

In the modern era of UW hockey (since 1963), the Badgers have been under .500 through six games just five times before this season, but finished with a winning record three of those times.

The road to recovery begins this weekend when the Badgers (0-5-1, 0-3-1 WCHA) head to Grand Forks to take on North Dakota in a battle of WCHA rivals.

On Saturday, Wisconsin's five freshmen saw what a rivalry series is all about, as the Badgers and Gophers combined for 89 penalty minutes, 61 of which came from combative penalties.

As bad of blood that there is between the border rivals, Wisconsin and North Dakota have had plenty of physical altercations in the past, as well.

"It was definitely a little different that high school hockey," said freshman forward Jordy Murray. "You don't see it that much in the pros, but the rivalries are intense in college."

Murray knows all about the North Dakota-Wisconsin battles. Jordy's brother, Brady, played at North Dakota and Jordy attended plenty of his brother's games growing up.

With knowing what to expect at the Ralph Engelstad arena, being wide-eyed won't be an excuse for Wisconsin's first line anymore.

The Badgers first line of junior John Mitchell and Blake Geoffrion along with Murray have only scored five goals and two assists in six games this season, including no points this past weekend.

"I thought our best game was Saturday," said Murray, who will have 20 relatives coming from Winnipeg for the series. "If you watch our shifts, we were in their zone for 90 percent of the shifts. A couple different bounces or a rebound popping out to us, it would have been a different story. We're just not getting lucky right now. We've got to get the chemistry going but I think we are learning and we're going to get better from here."

Another player making his debut in North Dakota (1-3-0, 1-1-0 WCHA), albeit of a different kind, is senior Shane Connelly. Connelly, who has yet to start a game in North Dakota, is 0-3-1 in four starts this season, is saving just 88 percent of his shots and giving up 4.45 goals per game, more stats that are misleading.

"I've been playing hard and competing on every puck," Connelly said. "I have done a lot of really good things, but I have to take responsibility on my end to shut the door when we get the lead, no matter how tough it is. If we make a focus on taking advantage of our leads and cutting down on our goals, we're going to be a better team. We haven't done that so far, but we're always trying to get better."

Connelly has been to North Dakota twice, once as a freshman and once as a sophomore, and the Badgers came away with sweeps both times. According to Connelly, the biggest threat he came across in Grand Forks was having glow sticks thrown at him in his last visit.

In his career, Connelly is 1-2 lifetime against the Sioux, giving up an average of two goals a game, including a painful 3-2 overtime loss in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final at the Kohl Center last March.

"Every game I have seen play is an absolute war," Connelly said. "There are more hits in those games that sometimes we put together in a weekend against other teams. For some reason when these two teams get together, it always brings up some bad blood. They are a great team, a great program and that's how we want to play."

With the Badgers not getting the results despite the effort and desperate for the win, one of the themes for Wisconsin this weekend is to play within themselves this weekend and coming away from North Dakota with at least one victory under its belt.

"I think we have done some really good things lately and we haven't had the results that we've wanted," Murray said. "If you look at our games, we've been in every game except that New Hampshire game. I don't think we're going to be stressing anything differently. We know we need that win, but we have to do the things that we can control and hope it turns out well for us."

"It's up to us older guys to show how it is done on the ice," Connelly said. "If we don't go outside of we're going to do, the younger guys will follow suit. To only way to get out of this is to continue doing what you are good at. We have the guys in there that can establish that."

No.16 North Dakota (1-3-0, 1-1-0) vs. Wisconsin (0-5-1, 0-3-1)

Date/Time - Friday-Saturday, Oct. 31-Nov. 1 at 7:30/7:00 p.m. CT

Arena – Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,406) - 200' x 85'

Television - None

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Brian Posick and Mike Cerniglia)

Series – Wisconsin leads 80-58-10

Last Meeting – UND beat UW 3-2 in Madison on March. 30, 2008

Series Notes

Wisconsin plays at Ralph Engelstad Arena for the first time since Dec. 9, 2006 ... Wisconsin is 35-29-7 in the series in games played in Grand Forks, N.D. ... the Badgers own a four-game winning streak in the series in games played in Grand Forks ... the Badgers have scored four goals in each of the four victories ... the games against North Dakota will be the first of the season for the Badgers against a team ranked outside the top seven in the country.

The Badgers have scored the first goal in four of their six games this season and have led in the third period in three of their games. They have been tied or in the lead in the second period of five of the six games.

After allowing six power-play goals on its first 30 penalty kills, the Badgers have since allowed just one power-play goal against over the last three games on 23 power plays against. For the season, the UW penalty kill is succeeding at an 86.8 percent rate, which ranks fifth in the WCHA overall. The UW is 88.2 percent on the penalty kill in WCHA contests to rank third in the league.


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