Looking for the Answer

Out shooting an opponent has been a common theme for the University of Wisconsin team. The only thing that has been inconsistent is the scoring, which can be a big issue for the Badgers, only the veterans aren't seeing it that way ... yet.

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Ask either of UW's talented forwards if they are satisfied with their current 7-4-1 record and senior Ben Street and sophomore Derek Stepan will give you a long pause before assembling a politically correct answer.

Follow that inquiry with one about scoring chances and the answer comes as quick as one of their slap shots: the Badgers are creating plenty, just not finishing.

"We've (given) away some points," Street said. "We've been in a lot of games and we don't score much. It seems like it's happen a few times this year."

The Badgers (7-4-1, 5-4-1 WCHA) have shown through the first two months of season why many consider them one of the most veteran teams in the nation. Wisconsin has out shot its opponents 11 times this season, including the last 10 games in a row, out shooting the opposition by an average of 19 shots in those games.

Yet, the Badgers sit in a tie for fourth place in the competitive Western Collegiate Hockey Association, either scored in bunches and been successful (6-0 when they have four goals or more) or struggled to covert those chances into goals (0-4-1 when they score two goals or fewer).

"When you are out chancing a team, that's a good thing, and being able to score will come," Stepan said. "When the chances aren't coming, that's an issue, which is not right not. You can't get frustrated, because that's when you can get yourself into trouble."

Generating a scoring chance isn't as complicated as one would assume. Sometimes all it takes is a simple chip pass into the corner, a defensive breakdown, simple plays in its own zone can create scoring chances. Simplicity is brilliance in hockey, something the Badgers have taken pride in with their 3.58 goals per game average, good enough for 11th in the nation.

"It's tough for a goalie to stop what he can't see," Street said. "Sometimes a floater shot from the point is just as dangerous as one from the slot with nobody in front. It definitely tires a goalie out when he sees that many saves, so we're happy about that and can live with the amount of chances."

Living with is one thing, converting is another, which is why UW coach Mike Eaves has spent the better part of the past few weeks focus on finishing in drills during practice, gearing his player's mindset towards getting the puck in the net.

"You can dominate and you don't score," Eaves said. "Sometimes it's the other team and sometimes it's shooting yourself in the foot. We just have got to reinforce the idea that a) we are working physically hard b) we are getting chances and c) history will repeat itself. These guys will score."

One of the guys Eaves mentioned was Stepan, who has scored three goals and nine assists in 12 games after finished second on the team with 33 points and 24 assists a year ago. Getting into the non-conference series might be good news for Stepan, as his Badgers head into the 17th annual College Hockey Showcase, playing eighth-ranked Michigan State (9-3-2) Friday and Michigan (5-7-0) Saturday. In UW series sweep over New Hampshire, Stepan had two goals.

"It's fun to get out of the WCHA a little bit and play in a different league," Stepan said. "Plus, the teams we are going to playing against are good. Any time, you get to play good non-conference teams on the road is good for your team. I know there are a couple guys, me included, want to score more and are trying to find their stride."

No.15 Wisconsin (7-5-1, 5-4-1 WCHA) vs. No.8 Michigan State (9-3-2, 6-2-2 CCHA) and Michigan (5-7-0, 3-5-0 CCHA)

Date/Time - Friday and Saturday, November 27-28 at 7 p.m. CT

Arena – Munn Ice Arena - 200 x 85 (6,470), Yost Arena - 200 x 85 (7,343)

Television - None – Follow Badger Nation's Blog

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

Series – MSU leads 45-40-3 (23-14-1 in East Lansing), Michigan leads 63-51-7 (24-15-5 in Ann Arbor)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin skated to a 3-1 victory against Michigan State on Nov. 28, 2008 at the Kohl Center, before blanking Michigan, 3-0, the following night

Michigan State Series Notes:

The Badgers are 3-0-1 in the last three meetings in the series and are 4-1-1 over the last six games. The UW is 2-0-1 at MSU in the Showcase the last three trips and 3-2-1 all-time at MSU during the event

Madison native A.J. Sturges skates for MSU but will not play because of a head injury

From 1959-81, a Big Ten Championship was awarded in men's hockey and both teams captured five crowns, though the UW only competed for 13 of the 23 years

Michigan Series Notes

UW is 4-3-0 in the last seven games overall and 4-2-0 in the last six games in the College Hockey Showcase

The Badgers are 2-4-0 against Michigan in Ann Arbor during the Showdown

Michigan and Wisconsin won five Big Ten titles from 1951-81, though the Badgers only competed for 13 of the 23 years

Wisconsin Notes:

Senior center and tri-captain Blake Geoffrion has picked up where he left off last season in terms of production on the road. He has three goals, one assist and four points in four games away from the Kohl Center. He showed 7-6-13 in 18 road games a year ago.

The Badgers are 10-20-2 all-time in the 16 years of the Showcase, but are 8-3-1 since 2003, including a sweep over Michigan and Michigan State during last year's event at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers are 5-6-1 all-time on the road in the Showdown. The first four years of the even were held at neutral-site venues in Auburn Hill, Mich., St. Paul, Minn., Milwaukee and Detroit.

Wisconsin's penalty kill ranks third in the nation at 91.5 percent (54-for-59). The UW kill was 10-for-11 last weekend at St. Cloud State, including a perfect 7-for-7 on Saturday. The Badgers killed four power-plays alone in the second period on Saturday, including nine minutes of nearly consecutive time.

In the UW's seven victories this season, it has outscored opponents 35-8. Wisconsin has outscored opponents 43-24 for the year.

Quotable

"I am biased. I think our forwards are on the top in the country. We have a good defensive core and that makes it hard on teams to play in our zone. Good defense wears a team, and that starts with our goalie to our defense and that helps the forward gets chances in the offensive zone." - Derek Stepan


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