Driving my car to a foreign place
Lookin at me, now they know my face
We want it all now, we got all YESSSS
Look At That, Look at how they lookin at us
Wale - Chillin featuring Lady Gaga
We're back again for our weekly preview, this time taking a look at a Badgers squad making their first road trip of the season. This week Wisconsin makes the trek to Houghton, Michigan for two games against conference foe Michigan Tech.
Last weekend the Badgers split two games at home versus Northern Michigan. After an overtime loss on Friday night, the Badgers rebounded for a 3-2 come back victory on Saturday. The Huskies of Michigan Tech hosted American International and took care of business both nights, winning 4-3 on Friday, and 3-1 Saturday.
Last weekend the Badgers offense got off to slow starts, failing to score in either first period. That's going to have to change going forward if Wisconsin wants to win games. The anointed first line for the Badgers featuring Mark Zengerle, Tyler Barnes, and Michael Mersch played well below their ability on Friday night. After a meeting with the coaching staff before Saturdays game, the trio bounced back on Saturday registering two of the teams three goals. Possibly even more importantly, Zengerle, who at times last year passed up shots in favor of passing registered eight shots on goal Saturday.
As is expected early in the season, there are some changes to the lines for this weekend. The top line will remain intact once again. The second unit now features Derek Lee, who scored the game winning goal on Saturday, centering Joseph LaBate who looked really good as an 18 year old freshmen last weekend and sophomore Gavin Hartzog. Hartzog sat on Friday night but played a nice game Saturday and is going to get a look in a scoring role this week.
The line on Saturday that featured Jefferson Dahl between brothers Ryan and Sean Little will stay together to form the third line. Rounding out the forward group will be two freshmen on the wings in Brendan Woods and Brad Navin and red-shirt sophomore Keegan Meuer in the middle.
It's interesting that Matt Paape is not in the projected lineup right now, as I thought he had a nice weekend for the Badgers. He's quick, and provides some good energy. I would expect him to get a shot on Saturday. Another surprise is Jason Clark not even making the trip. Mike Eaves has said that Clark is 100% but I have to assume due to time lost from off season surgeries he's not quite in game shape. At least I hope that's the reason.
BADGER DEFENSE & GOALIES
Defensively, the Badgers didn't look too bad over the weekend. Specifically on Saturday, neither one of the goals scored came from outstanding scoring opportunities. And in replaying the game in my head, I can't think of too many plain scoring chances that the defense allowed.
The top unit of freshman Jake McCabe and Justin Schultz played pretty well. Schultz ended up with three assists and McCabe looked solid overall. He did cough the puck up once when he was too lackadaisical with it that led to a scoring opportunity but other then that I came away impressed.
Patrick Daly played on Friday and was replaced by senior Eric Springer on Saturday. Springer is back in there in Friday's projected lineup paired with John Ramage. Frankie Simonelli is back once again with Joe Faust.
By all accounts, the goaltenders looked good last weekend. The Friday night loss certainly cannot be pinned on Peterson. After the game and in his weekly press conference Eaves noted that he was impressed with both net-minders and that both are expected to play once again this weekend. Peterson is expected to go once again on Friday and Rumpel on Saturday.
Unfortunately for Michigan Tech, they are going to be without their leading goal scorer from last season in Milos Gordic, who is going to be out for the second weekend in a row with a shoulder injury. Gordic was predicted by many WCHA experts to be a breakout candidate in the league this year.
The Huskies can still pack some punch. Their top line of Brett Olson, Blake Pietila, and Jordan Baker is one of the more under-rated lines in the WCHA. Last weekend that unit accounted for four of the Huskies seven goals. Olson is a Wisconsin native and always plays with a chip on his shoulder when he plays the Badgers. Baker had a down year last season, but recorded 27 points as a sophomore. Pietila, a true freshman out of the NTDP made an immediate impact for Tech with two goals in the opening series.
HUSKY DEFENSE & GOALIES
Tech's top defenseman has, and is once again Steven Seigo. The former Bonnyville Pontiacs blue-liner has been an impact player for an often times punch-less Tech team since he entered the WCHA a few years ago. Now a junior, Seigo has a lot of pressure on him to not only shut down opposing teams top lines, but to put up offensive points as well. Seigo is off to a fast start with a goal and two assists on opening weekend and will be a player that the Badgers must be aware of this weekend.
Last weekend Tech split their goaltenders between Friday and Saturday much like the Badgers. Kevin Genoe got the Friday start and Josh Robinson went on Saturday. Robinson was the better of the two and will get the start on Friday for the Huskies. New Michigan Tech coach Mel Person is waiting until after the Friday game to announce his Saturday starter.
There is no television coverage of this weekends series. There is a video feed that is accessible at MichiganTechHuskies.com for a fee. According to their website, you have to sign up for at least a 1 month package which costs $11.95 to view the games. As always both games will be on the radio on the Badger Sports Network.
The Badgers dropped one spot in the USCHO.com poll from #17 to #18. Wisconsin is still "receiving votes" in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll. Michigan Tech is un-ranked in both polls.
Ryan Little was a little dinged up with a shoulder but played both nights and is expected to be a go once again. Jason Clark has yet to play since his off-season hip surgery. Tech forward Milos Gordic is out with a shoulder.
This isn't the same old Tech squad. They have a new coach in town with Mel Pearson, the long time Michigan assistant and he's trying to change the culture in Houghton. Like I mentioned, the Huskies have some nice pieces, just probably not the depth of talent that the Badgers currently have. I think in the first time in the history of me making predictions on this team, I'm going to project a Badger loss to Michigan Tech. A young team, making their first road trip of the season, can be disastrous. I'll say the Badgers play on their heels Friday and Tech takes them down but the Badgers bounce back on Saturday and dominate.
Friday: Michigan Tech 3, Wisconsin 2
Saturday: Wisconsin 6, Michigan Tech 2
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