Patrick Eyes A Championship Finish

With a new job in the U.S. Hockey League awaiting him when the season is over, Wisconsin assistant coach Kevin Patrick looks to help guide the Badgers to its second national championship in his tenure.

MADISON - Success in recruiting is the difference between a team playing for a championship and a team sitting at home watching the final on television. Each team at Wisconsin has a great recruiting on its staff that has grabbed some of the premier prospects that have turned its respective teams into contenders.

The football team has Joe Rudolph, the basketball team has Greg Gard and the hockey team has the under appreciated Kevin Patrick.

"I think he's a great person," said junior goalie Scott Gudmandson, one of the half dozen Canadians on UW's roster recruited by Patrick. "When I first met him, him coming up to Canada to recruit me, I thought he was a great guy. He was one of the reasons I really started to look at the University of Wisconsin. I didn't know too much about the Badgers coming from Northern Alberta, but he did a great job of showing the university had to offer."

That recruiting niche in addition to his work in the film room makes Patrick an important piece of UW's success, and a big reason why the Badgers are going to struggle to replace him next season.

When Wisconsin plays RIT at Detroit's Ford Field on Thursday, Patrick's UW assistant coaching career will begin to come to a close. An assistant coach with UW since 2005-06, it was announced on March 11 that Patrick, 41, will become the first coach of the expansion Muskegon (Mich.) Lumberjacks of the U.S. Hockey League when the postseason is complete.

"He's as good of person you ever could higher," said Head Coach Mike Eaves, who gave Patrick a ringing endorsement for the job. "His integrity is above and beyond. His ability in our office from a behind the scenes standpoint … we're probably going to miss him more when he's gone because you realize how much he kept everyone on the straight and narrow."

Patrick has been at Wisconsin the last five years, helping guide the team to its sixth NCAA championship, but will start piecing together a staff and a list of potential prospects in a league that is expanding to 16 teams in 2010-11.

Eaves said he won't begin the process of hiring a replacement until after the postseason but if he plans to hire a clone of Patrick, the applicant will need to have a) a brilliant hockey mind b) a no-nonsense, approachable style c) be known in virtually every hockey rink.

"It was like being with Norm from Cheers," Eaves said. "Everybody would talk to KP. If you aren't coaching, you are recruiting, and he's very good at that."

If there's any doubts that Patrick, who was twice a finalist for the Alaska coaching job in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, is capable of running his own program, one look at his resume and one has to wonder why it didn't come sooner.

Serving one year as an assistant coach and assistant general manager for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, Patrick serves as an assistant and was the recruiting coordinator at Union College (1998-2002) and Bowling Green State (2002-05) before venturing to Madison.

"Him and I are the ones that are out and about in the trenches doing a lot of the things behind the scenes, so it's going to be tough," said UW assistant Mark Osiecki, who worked with Patrick for a year in Green Bay. "It's like losing a brother."

As a player, Patrick was a four-year letterman at Notre Dame. The defenseman captained the team during his final two seasons, knowledge he brings into the film room with both forwards and defenders.

"He's got a really good hockey mind," Gudmandson said. "He knows what he is talking about. He analyzes it, breaks down and has fun. Guys try to imitate his voice and rib him, but he makes it a fun environment."

Added Osiecki: "He understands our system so well and he understands our team so well that he can provide the feedback Coach Eaves wants and needs immediately after a period. His knowledge of what we are trying to accomplish, inside and out."

That goal is to send UW's seven seniors out with a championship ring, a fitting end to an illustrious Wisconsin career. The same can be said for Patrick, although he won't be too far away.

"The best thing is that he'll be in the USHL, looking at a lot of the talent we are looking at," Osiecki said. "After all the prime seats he got (on travel trips), maybe he can send a good kid or two are way."

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