I feel home, when I see the faces that remember my own.
I feel home, when I'm chilling outside with the people I know.
I feel home, and that's just what I feel.
Home to me is reality, and all I need is something real.
O.A.R.--I Feel Home
The Wisconsin Men's hockey team has won only one game out of their past six. But a new day creates a new opportunity, and the Badgers are back at home where they they have the Kohl Center fans on their side. This season the Badgers are 5-3 at home including a sweep of North Dakota and a win over then #1 ranked Minnesota.
Last weekend the Badgers stumbled on the road at #5 Colorado College, getting swept at World Arena. Wisconsin lost a hard fought battle on Friday night 4-2. Saturday, after unveiling new third jerseys the Badgers came out sloppy and dug themselves a 0-3 hole and never were able to recover in a 4-1 loss.
Mercyhurst hosted conference foe Bentley and took three points after a 0-0 Friday tie and a 2-1 Saturday victory.
The major news out of Madison this week was that red-shirt junior Ryan Little won't be playing this weekend as he is having surgery on Monday to repair his broken hand which he re-injured against North Dakota a few weeks back. The Badgers alternate captain had been gutting it out the past few weeks but has decided that missing the next 3-6 weeks and correcting the issue would be more beneficial then playing through it. Little is one of the toughest kids on the team, and you have to respect his ability to play through a broken hand for the past month.
The loss of Little, paired with the offense stagnating over the past three games has forced head coach Mikes Eaves hand and he's changed up some line combinations for this weekends series against Mercyhurst.The Badgers are down to 12 healthy forwards with Little and Derek Lee both being out due to injury and Gavin Hartzog moving back to defense for the foreseeable future.
The new top line will feature Mark Zengerle at center with Tyler Barnes on his right wing and freshman Brendan Woods on his left. Zengerle and Barnes have been playing together all season and have been the Badgers most consistent offensive threats. Woods has been better than advertised for the Badgers and will add a physical presence to this line. Woods works well in the corners and if needs to feed Barnes and Zengerle the puck and get himself out front for screens and tips.
The second unit will see a big change as freshman Joseph LaBate will be playing center for the first time as a Badger. LaBate was a centerman last year for Holy Angels but that's high school hockey. LaBate is paired up with Michael Mersch and Matt Paape. Those two have played together for the past month or so and have developed a nice chemistry. Paape is slippery with the puck and Mersch brings a nice skill set to go along with his size.
The third unit pits Jefferson Dahl in his usual center position between Tyler Lapic and Keegan Meuer. Meuer has been playing great and adding more offense than he was expected to this season. Lapic hasn't seen much action at all this season, in fact he hasn't played since the opening weekend.
The other line combination is an interesting one to me. Brad Navin moves to center between Jason Clark and Sean Little. Navin and Clark both have plenty of talent and added playing time should bring more confidence for those young men. Sean Little brings some grit to this line that the lineup has been missing on some nights.
BADGER DEFENSE & GOALIES
Defensively, not much will change for the Badgers this weekend. Freshman Jake McCabe is still out with his hand injury after a laceration forced him into surgery. Justin Schultz is still playing like an All-American and is once again paired up with Frankie Simonelli. Simonelli had some points last weekend and saw some time on the power play.
Eric Springer and John Ramage are still paired up together. This unit has to get better. Springer was -3 last weekend against CC and hasn't stepped up like I thought he would in the absence of McCabe. Joe Faust will be paired with freshman Patrick Daly who has seemed to take the edge on the sixth defenseman spot over Chase Drake.
In net the Badgers will start Joel Rumpel on Friday night and make a Saturday decision when the time comes. Eaves made it clear in his press conference this week that for the foreseeable future, that's how it's going to work. Landon Peterson started on Saturday and played decent but Rumpel has the edge at this point.
Mercyhurst is relying on a lot of freshmen this season similar to Wisconsin, especially up front. Four of the Lakers top six forwards in scoring are first year players. They are led up front in points by freshman Daniel Bahntge and junior Grant Blakey who both have 8 points in 12 games. Freshman Chris Bodo holds the team lead in goals with 4.
The Lakers have had some trouble scoring goals this season mostly due to their youth. They are only averaging 2.25 goals per game this season. However they have been decent on the power play, clicking at a 23% clip.
LAKER DEFENSE & GOALIES
Mercyhurst's strength is their back end where they are only allowing 2.75 goals per game. Net-minder Max Strang has been lights out in goal with a .930 save percentage and a 2.65 GAA. Expect to see him on both nights for the Lakers.
A pair of young blue-liners, Tyler Shiplo and Nick Jones have been chipping in on both ends of the ice this season. Shiplo has six points and Jones five, and they both have added a pair of goals.
Unfortunately there is no TV for this weekends series. There is a webcast on UWBadgers.com for a fee. You can also catch the game on the radio at WIBA 1310 on Friday and WTSO 1070 on Saturday.
REMEMEMBER: THE SATURDAY GAME STARTS AT 8 PM DUE TO THE AFTERNOON FOOTBALL GAME
Neither team is ranked
Wisconsin will be without the services of Ryan Little, Jake McCabe, and Derek Lee. All are out with hand injuries.
Wisconsin swept Mercyhurst at home in 2004, 3-2, 8-0.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves is 3 wins away from career victory #200 at Wisconsin.
Believe it or not, Mercyhurst is actually ranked ahead of Wisconsin in the latest RPI rankings so this series is far from a gimme. However, Mercyhurst brings a young squad into the Kohl Center where the Badgers have been playing their best hockey. I could see this series going in a number of directions but I think the Badgers will struggle on Friday adjusting to the new line combinations but prevail on Saturday.
Friday: Wisconsin 3, Mercyhurst 3
Saturday: Wisconsin 5, Mercyhurst 2