Preview: Hearing the Call

Getting demoted to the fourth line, senior Andy Bohmbach went about his business as usual last weekend, hoping that would generate a spark. With a season-best three-point weekend, Bohmbach added another element to a potent scoring offense for No.3 Wisconsin, which will be challenged by No.4 St. Cloud State this weekend at the Kohl Center.

MADISON - Being called out by Head Coach Mike Eaves earlier last week, senior Andy Bohmbach didn't want to put too much added pressure on himself to perform.

Having not scored a goal since Dec. 11 or a point since Jan. 2, Bohmbach, who was demoted to the fourth line before the Badgers took on Minnesota State, went about business as normal before the Saturday finale. He had spaghetti for lunch and got some new steel put on his skates.

Whether it was just his time or there was something special in the pregame routine, Bohmbach flourished Saturday when he converted a backhander to erase a 1-0 deficit in the opening minutes. He followed that up by hitting senior Ben Grotting with lengthy pass for a breakaway and helped set up a shorthanded goal by sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner.

He finished with a season high three points and led Wisconsin with a plus-3 rating.

"It always feels good to respond to a challenge, especially when it comes from the head coach," said Bohmbach, who was awarded the game puck. "Hopefully I responded the way he wanted me to."

When asked how he played, Eaves simply said the word "terrific," as the new blades evidentially played a factor.

"He looked fast out there, and that's not one of the things you would say everyday about Andy," Eaves said later. "He played with a decisiveness."

One of the areas Bohmbach was key was on the penalty kill, as being a man down hasn't been much of a disadvantage lately for Wisconsin. Against Minnesota State, the Badgers killed off 12-of-13 power plays and scored two short-handed goals. The Badgers have killed 29 of their last 31 penalties spanning their last five games.

It was instrumental work for the Badgers to sweep a lesser opponent and to keep pace in the competitive Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.

"It was a big weekend for us in terms of us needing the points," Eaves said. "We needed a ‘W' to stay within reach of our next intermediate goal … I do know that the club that is coming in here (this week), they've got some pretty good people on the power play, and we'll be tested."

That club testing No.3 Wisconsin (18-7-4, 13-6-3 WCHA, 29 points) is No.4 St. Cloud State (19-9-4, 14-7-3 WCHA, 31 points) in a series at the Kohl Center that will help determine the regular season champion of the WCHA and the overall seed in next month's NCAA Tournament.

Converting 20.5 percent of the power play, Huskies are 16-2-4 when they score on the power play. Senior forward Ryan Lasch is one of the potent weapons on special teams, scoring six goals on the power play and his 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) are tied with senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion for sixth in the conference.

"They are a talented team and with the way the league is, you can't take anybody lightly," Geoffrion said of St. Cloud State, which is 13-3-2 in its last 18 games. "We know they are going to come in here playing hard and we have to match that, especially when we are in our own barn."

As nice as it is for Wisconsin to have the supporting cast, like Bohmbach, step up in key situations, the Badgers have relied on three upperclassmen that are trying to net the school's first Hobey Baker Award winner, given to the best player in college hockey, and lead the team in scoring.

Geoffrion has 21 goals – making him the first to reach that plateau for UW since 2005-06 when Robbie Earl had 24 and Joe Pavelski 23 – after he scored three goals and four assists last weekend, giving him 19 goals and 13 assists for 32 points.

Geoffrion also leads the WCHA with 21 goals overall and 19 goals in WCHA games. He also leads the WCHA in league scoring with 32 WCHA points.

Senior right wing Michael Davies sits on top of the team scoring list with 37 points overall (13 goals, 24 assists) and is third in the conference/ninth in the country in scoring.

Junior defenseman Brendan Smith has 13 goals, which is tops in the country for blue liners, and his 23 assists make his 36 points right on the heels of Davies.

"I would be lying if I said they didn't look at (the scoring lead) because I was an athlete once," Eaves said. "They know. They know what's there, but the big prize is the team prize. We're keeping our eyes on the big prize. The other stuff will take care of itself."

If the Badgers, who are 7-0-3 against St. Cloud State at the Kohl Center under Eaves, continue that streak, Wisconsin's intermediate goals will become closer within reach.

No.4 St. Cloud State (19-9-7) vs. No.3 Wisconsin (18-7-4)

Date/Time - Friday and Saturday, February 19-20 at 7 p.m. CT

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

Television - Friday – None. Saturday – TVW, Time Warner Cable 32. Tape Delayed on the Wisconsin Channel at 10 p.m.

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

Series – UW leads 41-25-8 (25-10-4 in Madison)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin took a 4-1 victory at the National Hockey Center on Nov. 21, 2009 to earn a series split after falling to the Huskies the night before by the same score.

Series Notes

Wisconsin hosts St. Cloud State for the first time since Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2007. The last eight games in the series have all been played in St. Cloud, Minn.

The Badgers are 7-0-3 against St. Cloud State at the Kohl Center under Head Coach Mike Eaves

The team that wins this weekend will take the season series and will own the WCHA tie break

UW Head Coach Mike Eaves spent one season (1987–88) as an assistant coach for St. Cloud State

This weekend is the last regular-season games at the Kohl Center for Wisconsin's seven seniors (Blake Geoffrion, Michael Davies, Andy Bohmbach, Aaron Bendickson, Ben Grotting, Ben Street (5th year) and John Mitchell.

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