Spent the last year
Rocky Mountain Way
Couldn't get much higher
Out to pasture
Think it's safe to say
Time to open fire
Joe Walsh--Rocky Mountain Way
A new week, and a new challenge. The grueling gauntlet that is the WCHA schedule continues this week as your Wisconsin Badgers travel to Colorado Springs to take on the Tigers of Colorado College.
Last weekend Wisconsin accumulated a home split against top ranked Minnesota. After upsetting the Gophers on Friday night, Minnesota bounced back on Saturday to earn two points of their own.
Things don't get any easier this weekend for the Badgers. They will be going up against a Tigers squad that is ranked in the top five nationally in both major polls and features the WCHA preseason player of the year in forward Jaden Schwartz.
One of the "buzz words" surrounding this years club has been consistency, and that reared its ugly head last weekend against Minnesota. Friday night the offense made the most of their opportunities, finding the back of the net three times in the win. Saturday night however the offense managed only 13 shots in the loss.
One of the things that has been apparent when the offense is seemingly "clipping," is the way the Badgers move the puck. Friday night the Badgers were moving the puck well and creating opportunities for themselves. On Saturday it didn't seem like the passes were as crisp or on target.
Mike Eaves talked about that this week in his weekly press conference, "I think that, at times, we look very good. There’s been times that we don’t move it as well as we could, as quick as we could, and working on that skill set is something that we do every week."
The top line of Joseph LaBate, Tyler Barnes, and Mark Zengerle continued to be the most impressive unit the Badgers bring to the table. Barnes and Zengerle extended their consecutive game scoring streaks to 11, and have registered points in every game this season with the exception of the opener.
Wisconsin needs more production throughout the lineup this weekend if they are going to compete with the explosive Tigers. The Badgers got a goal each out of Keegan Meuer and Michael Mersch last weekend and those two as well as players like Brendan Woods, Matt Paape, and Jason Clark need to show a little more flair in the offensive zone this weekend.
BADGER DEFENSE & GOALIES
Justin Schultz was great as always last weekend, including his 150 foot pass to Michael Mersch to set up the Badgers third goal on Friday night. He's starting to get a better feeling of playing with Frankie Simonelli and hopefully that chemistry will pay off in the future.
I think it's fair to say that Eric Springer didn't have his best weekend as a Badger against Minnesota. he didn't look confident with the puck and turned it over on a number of occasions including one that directly lead to a Nick Bjugstad goal on Saturday. Without Jake McCabe available, Springer is going to be relied upon by the coaching staff to play more minutes including on special teams and he's going to have to have a better weekend against CC.
A report came out this morning in the Wisconsin State Journal that Eaves has decided to come back once again with freshman Joel Rumpel between the pipes on Friday night. Rumpel played his first Friday night game last weekend and held the high flying Gophers to one goal in the win. Rumpel played very well on Saturday as well and kept the Badgers in the game.
COLORADO COLLEGE OFFENSE
Just like last weekend, the Badgers are going to be facing one of the most potent attacks in the country. Currently CC leads all division 1 teams in scoring at almost four and a half goals per game. Their power play is clicking at 27% and has showed no signs of slowing down.
The Tigers feature arguably the number one forward in the entire nation in sophomore Jaden Schwartz. The 2010 first round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, Schwartz teams up with his older brother Rylan to form one of the most deadly duals around. The Schwartz brothers have accounted for more than 1/3 of the teams goals so far this season.
This week CC has changed up their lines a bit in order to jump start a few players. William Rapuzzi, who had 12 goals last season only has one this season and has been paired up with the Schwartz duo to kick start his production.
COLORADO COLLEGE DEFENSE & GOALIES
CC has a stable of really talented defensemen that don't get enough credit for whatever reason. Most recently, two former CC defensemen, Nate Prosser and Kris Fredheim have been called up to the NHL's Minnesota Wild despite not accumulating major headlines while at CC.
This year CC features a top pairing of Gabe Guentzel and Joey Marciano. Guentzel is one of the leaders on this Tigers club and is a factor on both ends of the ice. Guentzel is averaging a point per game this season and has 75 on his career. Junior Mike Boivin has also chipped in on the offensive end this year with 7 points.
In net Colorado College features Joe Howe from Plymouth, Minnesota. The junior net-minder has the tools to be an elite net-minder in this league but hasn't put it together for a full season yet. So far this year his numbers look on pace like his career stats although he's been abused in his last two games giving up 10 goals combined to Nebraska-Omaha and Denver.
Unfortunately, there is no television for this weekends series. However there will be a webcast available at Americaone.com ($). Both games will be broadcast on WIBA 1310 and the Badger Sports Network.
Wisconsin is "receiving votes" in the USCHO.com poll and unranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll. Colorado College is ranked 5th in both major polls.
Wisconsin will be without the services of Derek Lee and Jake McCabe once again this weekend. Colorado College is at full strength.
Wisconsin played CC last year in a best of 3 series in the WCHA playoffs in Colorado Springs. The Badgers won the opener but lost in overtime in game two, and dropped the finale 2-1 to end their season.
Badger forward Brendan Woods father Bob is an assistant coach for the Washington Capitals.
Believe it or not, Wisconsin is 3-1 against top five teams this season. Unfortunately, all those games were played at the Kohl Center. The Badgers are still searching for their first road victory after being swept at Michigan Tech and losing and tying at St. Cloud.
CC is more than likely the better team but the Badgers have been resilient all season long and I think that continues this weekend.
Friday: Colorado College 4, Wisconsin 2
Saturday: Wisconsin 3, Colorado College 2