We're back once again with our weekly "Take Five" series where we take a deeper look into the hockey Badgers opposition by chatting with their beat writer. This week we were able to talk with another one of the WCHA's elite beat writers, Joe Paisley (@csgazettehockey) who covers Colorado College for the Colorado Springs Gazette.
The Badgers are coming off a split at home with rival Minnesota who was (and still is) ranked number one in the country in every major poll. After playing arguably their most complete game of the season on Friday in a 3-1 win, the Golden Gophers came back and got the better of the Badgers on Saturday 4-1.
Colorado College is coming off a one game weekend against their top rival, Denver. The Tigers fell to the Pioneers 5-4 in a high scoring affair in Denver.
I was able to talk to Joe about high powered forward Jaden Schwartz and his decision to return to school, the Tigers potent offense, and of course his prediction on this weekends WCHA series.
B5Q: This is sort of a two part question. Were you surprised that Jaden Schwartz (14th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft) came back for his Sophomore season at Colorado College? Also, many have Jaden projected to win the WCHA's player of the year award, how has he looked in his second season in Colorado Springs?
Paisley: Not surprised. Indications were that he’d come back for a second season, but of course, there’s always the chance that the NHL money would be too tempting. He was so good late last season, that 10 points in seven games seems to be a downturn. That isn’t fair but seeing him attack the net more would be a step forward. He can take over games when he wants to, like he did in the third Saturday in Omaha.
B5Q: Colorado College is 5-2 on the young season. The Tigers started off 4-0 but have been tripped up recently, abiet on the road, with a split at UNO and a loss at rival Denver. CC is the 5th ranked team in the country in both major polls, is that accurate based on their play so far?
Paisley: I would peg them as a top 10 team. They need to show they can handle the top-tier forwards that UNO and DU and other teams have before I can say they are a top 5 team.
B5Q: Goaltender Joe Howe's numbers this season look right on pace with his career averages. I thought he might be able to elevate his play in his third season on campus this year, but I'm not sure he's taken that step. Does Joe have the ability to become one of the nations elite net-minders?
Paisley: When he’s focused, Howe can be one of the best as he showed during last season’s postseason run. If he can get back to that kind of focus, he could be a top-10 goalie in Division I.
B5Q: I saw on your blog that CC is experimenting with line combinations in practice this week in an effort to generate more 5x5 scoring. I understand that the Tigers are clipping at 27% on the PP so far, and have 10 goals with the man advantage, but CC is the #1 scoring team in the country. Can you explain to me why a team averaging almost four and a half goals per game is tinkering with its line combinations?
Paisley: Improving the 5-on-5 offense was the official word, but I think they also tweaked the lines to jumpstart players like William Rapuzzi and give Alexander Krushelnyski a larger role. The Schwartz-Swartz-Rapuzzi line worked well last season when (now graduated) Stephen Schultz was injured, so this is a pairing that most expected this offseason. I also think the moves will help the team defense.
B5Q: Both CC and Wisconsin are coming off games last weekend against their number one rival. What is your prediction for this weekend series between the Badgers and Tigers?
Paisley: I think CC will garner three points, taking advantage of home line changes rolling four lines and a good forecheck to wear down the Badgers.
We can't thank Joe enough for participating this week. Make sure you follow him on twitter for coverage of the Badger/Tigers series this weekend. @csgazettehockey