As the Badgers prepare for North Dakota and their first home WCHA series of season this weekend, one major concern about this years team is quickly becoming an afterthought. Coming into the season, Wisconsin featured a team that had zero goalies on the roster with collegiate game experience. Not since the 1964-65 season had the Badgers started a season in the same predicament, which made many who follow the program uneasy.
Some of those concerns have turned into optimism with the play of two freshmen net-minders. Saskatchewan native Joel Rumpel and Oregon, WI native Landon Peterson have split the action the first two weekends of the season, and are earning the respect of their teammates and coaches. Despite their collective 1-3 record, Badger head coach Mike Eaves in his weekly press conference noted that he likes that his young goalies are giving the team a chance to win.
"The captains have said that's one of the things that's been answered pretty emphatically here, is these young men have stepped in and done a nice job. And in all the games that we've played, they've given us a chance to be victorious."
Both have played two games in this young season and have remarkably similar stats. Rumpel has the slightly better save percentage (.918 compared to .912), and Peterson has the advantage in GAA (2.3499 to 2.4969).
North Dakota is a traditional powerhouse, and has some big time weapons. Danny Kristo and Corban Knight are two of the most explosive forwards in the league, and should provide Peterson and Rumpel with their biggest test yet.
Eaves noted in his weekly press conference that he expects both of his freshmen goalies to see time between the pipes this weekend. Expect to see Peterson on Friday, and Rumpel in the finale.
NEWS AND NOTES
--Coach Eaves thinks one of the advantages of having a team with little experience is that they can bounce back from a tough loss quicker than usual because they don't know any better:
"I had a gathering with the captains today and talked over various things. We meet every once in awhile, and I asked that same question. They said, Coach, we're so young. That they're just naïve, that they'll just come back, and they'll be fine. It's much like us in the games. We've fallen behind, fought back in, and fallen behind again, fought back. They just keep playing, so I think they'll be fine."
--Some of the young forwards on the Badger roster are making a tough transition from high school to the WCHA but Eaves likes the potential of these kids:
"When you lose Craig Smith and Jordy Murray, you're trying to replace some offense, and you bring in talented guys, for instance, Joseph LaBate, who is an offensive guy, and Brad Navin, it's going to take some time. I thought Brad Navin had his best game so far. He showed his skating ability, and he snapped the puck. He was involved in a goal for us."
--Navin is making the even more rare jump from Wisconsin high school to college hockey:
"It was really encouraging to us as a coaching staff to see the type of game he played on Saturday night, because he took a step. He didn't look like a freshman. That big body of his was skating. He was shooting the puck. He played with some confidence, and that's what he needs to feel. That's what we needed to see. So if he keeps doing that, he's going to be on that score sheet more often."
--Badger defensemen John Ramage and Justin Schultz will be relied upon heavily this season for quality minutes but Eaves wants to make sure they let the game come to them instead of pressing:
On Ramage-"I think he's trying to do a little bit too much. In other parts of his game, we see him moving well and doing very much the job that we need him to do. With the captains today, we talked about the fact that one of their challenges is not to be super captains to do their part. Less is more. And that's a difficult thing for adults to understand, let alone kids that are 18 to early 20s."
On Schultz-"I mean, you can see it on the ice there. He wants so badly for the team to do well, that he's stepping outside what he would naturally do, which is the most effective. And he's got to try to strike that balance with the type of team that we have and understand that, and he's learning. He's a bright young man."
--North Dakota and Wisconsin have a long tradition of history and this weekends games should be easy to get up for according to Eaves:
"No matter what happened over this past weekend, our job here is to get back to practice and become better in practice and get ready for North Dakota. North Dakota's going to be fun to get up for. You don't have to worry about the emotional. We have to though, during the course of the week make sure that we're getting better in the areas, in all areas, so that helps us be successful on Friday, Saturday."