Geoffrion, McBain offense carries Badgers

With Wisconsin having an abundance of youth this season, the Badgers are relying on captain Blake Geoffrion and assistant captain Jamie McBain to led the team. With a nine-point weekend between the two of them, the Badgers are getting what they asked out of their two veterans.

MADISON — With all these whippersnapper freshmen and sophomores around them on the Kohl Center ice, University of Wisconsin junior forward Blake Geoffrion and junior defenseman Jamie McBain must feel like old men at times.

With senior captain Ben Street likely done for the season with an ACL injury, the young Badgers have been in dire need of leadership during a tough early stretch in which the Badgers won just one of eight games – all against ranked teams.

Geoffrion, now the only on-ice captain on the team, and McBain, recently appointed as an assistant captain, delivered in huge proportions this weekend, combining for nine points in leading UW to a sweep of Michigan Tech capped by a 6-0 rout Saturday night.

UW coach Mike Eaves has asked Geoffrion, his second-most seasoned forward behind senior Tom Gorowsky, to do more damage in front of the net, wreaking havoc for opposing defensemen and goaltenders.

Mission accomplished Saturday night, as Geoffrion redirected two power play shots from the point past MTU goalie Josh Robinson, one off the shaft of his stick and the other off his posterior.

"He's a stubborn young man. He's most effective when he's there (in traffic), and it's finally showing itself," UW coach Mike Eaves said. "I hope he continues to buy into it and plant that big body of his in front of the net, let pucks hit him and whack away at rebounds and tip pucks in."

Geoffrion revealed that Eaves has begun calling him "Tomas", referring to Tomas Holmstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, a man who has made his living hassling goaltenders, particularly on the power play.

"The first time he called me that, I was like, ‘is this guy crazy or what? Is he forgetting my name already, or what?'" Geoffrion said, drawing laughter from reporters. "That's how he wants me to play."

The fourth goal on Saturday evening was originally credited to Geoffrion, whose second-period cross-ice pass was redirected into the cage. But after the game, the goal was switched to Gorowsky, whose skate was the source of that bounce; thus, Geoffrion was denied his first career hat trick.

"It was good to get those two for sure tonight," Geoffrion said with a smile.

While Geoffrion stole the show Saturday, one of his teammates has been doing it all season.

A defenseman has led Wisconsin in scoring only four times in the modern era, which began in 1963. Sean Hill was the last Badger to led the team in points during the 1990-91 campaign but no defenseman has ever led the Badgers in goals. This could probably be the fifth, as UW's top four scorers are all blue-liners.

McBain, now with three goals and nine assists on the season, has three more points than any other Badger and five more than the nearest forward (Geoffrion, with seven points).

"We've got a really talented d-corps as you can see," said McBain's defensive linemate Brendan Smith, who had four assists Saturday and six on the series. "(Jamie)'s definitely helped me back there a lot."

The Badgers' longest-tenured defender is a soft-spoken ice general, but with that shiny new "A" on his uniform, McBain has been thrust into an increased leadership role.

"He's a really competitive young man, and I think that last year, at the end of the year, he started to take that competitiveness and become a little more vocal in the playoffs down the stretch, because off the ice he's pretty quiet," Eaves said. "But on the bench, he stands up and says, 'Hey boys, we need to do this or that,' and now he's got a formal letter on his jersey.

"When you are playing well, it's easier to stand up and speak and be a leader," Eaves continued. "It's all come together for him right now and he's playing really well. We're seeing verbal things from him on the ice, and that will help us be a better team."

The McBain-to-Smith-to-Geoffrion combination was working Saturday night, particularly on the power play, where UW exploded for five goals.

"Give their defensemen credit, they shoot the puck very, very well and they had traffic in front of our goalie," Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell said.

Casual UW hockey fans might shrug and say, well, it's "only" Michigan Tech, by far the worst team Wisconsin has played this year.

But after what they've been through the first month of this season, UW coach Mike Eaves and his team will gladly take this sweep and go forth with it in high confidence.

"Doesn't matter who you play, when you get victories, there's a natural emotional boost that gets into your body and soul," Eaves said. "When you come to the rink, you got a little lighter bounce in your step, we can push the guys next week.

"We can continue to work hard, and they'll be ready for it because they do want to get better, and that's just a byproduct of winning."

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