The Point Man

The challenge to be a complete player as been a slow, often challenging process for senior Michael Davies, especially when his coaching staff gives him a seat on the bench. Davies has gotten the message, as the senior leads No.3 Wisconsin in points heading into the WCHA Playoffs Friday.

MADISON - It was a message Michael Davies never wanted to receive.

A senior and one of the leading returning scorers from the previous season, Davies had spent the offseason pushing himself to be more competitive and physical, a message that was given to him when the Wisconsin coaching staff benched him for six games the previous November.

"Last year was the wake-up call," Davies said. "I know what it takes to play at this level. Being a top scorer coming back and knowing the team needed me on the power play, I just worked hard in practice, working on winning the one-on-one battles. It's been a slow progress throughout the four years I have been here."

The process was still a work in progress in October, a message that was relayed to him when Head Coach Mike Eaves benched him for the opening series against Colorado College. When Davies got his chance the next weekend against Minnesota State, he responded with two assists.

"I've been rolling from there," Davies said.

Rolling is an understatement for the senior from St. Louis. After scoring 24 or fewer points and registering no more than 13 assists in one season, Davies has put himself in position to be an All-WCHA Player, scoring 15 goals and 30 assists for a team-leading 45 points, the first 40-point scorer UW had had since the 2005-06 season.

Davies has 14 multi-point outings, including a January streak of six straight games with at least two points, has not gone more than two games without a point and blossomed as a key contributor on special teams, scoring six power play goals.

"Mike can walk away from this season to know that he didn't leave anything left on the table," Eaves said of Davies, who never had point streak longer than four games until this season. "He left it all out there, and became the type of player he thought he could, that we coaches hoped he would. Ultimately, he had to do the things to get there, so there will be no regrets when he leaves. Hopefully, he'll have something to smile about."

It's hard to not notice the smile on Davies, as he and his linemates – senior tri-captain Ben Street and sophomore Derek Stepan – will be a big key to the equation should No.3 Wisconsin (22-9-4) go on to win its seventh national title, a post-season run that begins by hosting Alaska Anchorage (11-21-2) in the opening round of the WCHA Tournament this weekend.

In the last three series against the Seawolves, the Badgers have won all six games, out scoring Anchorage by a combined score of 30-12, numbers that have gone up this year thanks to that second line engineered by Davies.

Stepan has scored 41 points (second to Davies) and 33 assists while Street has tied his career high with 13 goals. In the Badgers only series with the Seawolves, Davies' line registered three goals and six assists.

"He is just so creative and so poised with the puck," Stepan said of Davies. "Teams have to respect a guy like that, a guy that can create opportunities, break down a guy and create an odd-man opportunity. He's very smooth with the puck and someone you can look to in general to make something happen."

Added Davies: "We click really well. We create that energy that I feel when our line is going, our whole team is going."

The change in Davies is deeper than him skating in the corner to out maneuver a younger defenseman. As a younger player, Davies was always offensive player, but someone who coveted the puck and the want to make the play himself.

According to Street, Davies has taken his game to a higher level by going and getting pucks and winning puck battles, a direct result for his certain spike in points.

"Some of the passes he makes on the power play are incredible," Street said. "Those are big plays that he hasn't always had the confidence to make. It's fun to play with him because for me, I just try to get open and look for where the puck is. I think he understands now that he can give up the pick and make good plays with it."

One of the big reasons Wisconsin missed the NCAA Tournament by .0002 last season was its 6-10 record in one-goal games, not generating enough offense in the clutch. In that same scenario this year, the Badgers are 6-4 in games decided by one tally and are the second-highest scoring unit in the country (3.94 per game).

With role players Aaron Bendickson and Andy Bohmbach stepping up on penalty kill and seven seniors factoring into the scoring, the Badgers, in Davies' eyes, have the makings of a team that can make a sustained run towards title number seven.

"We have all the role players, we have a lot of depth and I think every line that we have could be the number one line on any team in the country," Davies said. "I think that's going to take us a long way down the stretch here.

"It's our senior year, everyone wants to go out with a bang and I think we have a fun team this year capable of good things. I just want to be out there and showing my team that I want to play every night."

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