Preview: Shaking Senioritis

One of the more productive players on Wisconsin's 2008-09 roster, John Mitchell was expected to be a dominant offensive force among the Badgers forwards. With one goal in seven games and getting benched in his last game, Mitchell is looking to get back to work and shake the cobwebs.

MADISON - Most students at the University of Wisconsin can't stand the sound of their alarm clock, but it is hard to imagine that many of them have ever suffered a wakeup call as painful as Wisconsin hockey forward John Mitchell did last Saturday.

Tied for the team lead in goals last season with 15, Mitchell has sputtered offensively this season, finding the back of the net only once in seven games and had a three-game stretch where he didn't attempt a shot.

The 6-foot-5 senior's struggles became so bad, UW head coach Mike Eaves removed Mitchell from the roster as a healthy scratch from last Saturday's Minnesota game.

"We need more from him. Plain and simple," Eaves said.

Though Mitchell was disappointed when he heard, the decision didn't come as a complete surprise.

"It came as a shock to me, but at the same time it wasn't," Mitchell said about getting benched for Saturday's game against Minnesota. "I understood what he told me at the time of why I was sitting out. He said he wanted more from me, and I want more from myself."

So what is the next step once a player hits rock bottom?

Work in practice. Work in practice. And yes, work hard in practice.

According to both Eaves and UW captain Blake Geoffrion, Mitchell has made his presence felt each time on the ice since Saturday, something he hopes will carry over when Wisconsin hosts Alaska-Anchorage in the final two games of its six-game home stand.

"As far as getting sat out last game, he still came to practice and worked hard instead of going the other way and being like, ‘oh, poor me'," Geoffrion said, "which is what you need to do, just keep your confidence up."

For his part, Mitchell was open to speaking about his struggles this season. Though he couldn't pinpoint a solution — "It's not like a math problem" — the Wisconsin-native was confident he would break through and light the lamp soon.

Both Eaves and Mitchell agreed, the big body forward needed to scrape for a "tough" goal to help him get back on track.

"What you do in those situations is check, ‘Am I getting chances?'" Eaves said of a player in a slump. "And if you are then you stay patient, keep working hard, you got to find a way to get some dirty goals, some gritty goals, because then the pretty ones will come because that is who you are."

After establishing himself as one of the Badgers' leading offensive forces in 2008-09, UW was counting on Mitchell's point production in his final year at Wisconsin, especially after the coaching staff thought Mitchell might make the jump to the NHL after last season.

For Eaves, however, senior year can prove to be a challenge fighting complacency and routine.

"I remember going back to being a senior myself," Eaves said. "It becomes a little of a routine, believe it or not. You go through what some people refer to as ‘senioritis.' You figure I got it made, because I have been here, and I know what's expected. Whether you think you have or not, you have lost a little bit of that edge. And I remember games myself my senior year, just like where was I? Snap out of it…I think that is part of human nature and you have to fight that."

With the Badger possessing strong depth at the forward position, Mitchell needs to figure out quick what has been hampering his game, or the senior forward will be seeing a lot more of the bench in coming games.

Instead of worrying about playing time, however, Mitchell is trying not to reach the production he was at last season, but surpass it.

"I have been trying to take my game to another level," Mitchell said. "You know with offense, defense, all levels. Sometimes when you are trying to do that you are going to step back a couple steps before you move forward."

Alaska Anchorage (4-6-0, 2-4-0 WCHA) vs. Wisconsin (4-3-1, 2-3-1 WCHA) vs.

Date/Time - Friday and Saturday, November 13-14 at 7 p.m. CT

Arena – Kohl Center (15,237, Rink - 200' x 97')

Television - Live Friday on FSN Wisconsin (Paul Braun/Rob Andringa). Live Saturday on WISC-TV (Paul Braun/Rob Andringa) and FSN Minnesota. Delayed replay both nights on TWC at 10 p.m. (Robb Vogel/Theran Welsh). Follow Badger Nation's free blog!

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

Series – Wisconsin leads 42-13-9 (Wisconsin leads 24-7-3 in Madison)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin finished off a sweep in Ahchorage on Jan.10, 2009, with a 6-3 victory. The Badgers won, 3-2, the previous night.

Series Notes:

Wisconsin owns a four game winning streak over UAA and holds an eight game unbeaten streak against the Seawolves.

The Badgers are 16-2-1 over the last 19 games, and the Badgers have won the last seven games in the series played in Madison.

UAA junior forward Sean Wiles hails from Beloit, Wis.


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