While most people around the country late last week were contemplating where they were going to spend their extended Labor Day weekend, Kevin Schulze was making plans on where he was going to spend the next half decade of his life. The White Bear Lake, MN native eventually settled on Wisconsin, notifying the coaching staff that he was giving his verbal commitment to become a Wisconsin Badger.
As is very customary in college hockey recruiting, the 5'10, 170 lb. defenseman who played his high school hockey for Hill Murray high school in the Twin Cities will have to wait a year before putting on the cardinal and white Wisconsin sweater. Schulze will spend the upcoming hockey season in the United States Hockey League honing his skills for the Muskegon Lumberjacks who are coached by former Wisconsin assistant Kevin Patrick.
Schulze was kind enough to talk with Bucky's 5th Quarter over the weekend about playing at the Xcel Energy Center, the roster snub that continues to motivate him, and of course his decision to become a Badger.
B5Q: You played for a perennial powerhouse with Hill Murray and made it to the State Tournament as a junior. Can you talk a little bit about the experience of playing in the tourney and at the Xcel Energy Center in front of a packed house as a high school kid?
Kevin Schulze: It was amazing, growing up watching the State Tournament on TV that's what I dreamed of and playing in it was great. It was almost surreal playing in front of so many people in the biggest game on my life.
B5Q: You were named a tri-captain for the Pioneers this past season. Is that something that you take pride in and can carry with you to the next level?
Schulze: "Yeah I definitely take pride in that and I think it helped a lot with getting some experience being the leader."
B5Q: Your team had an opportunity to play an outdoor game this year during Hockey Day Minnesota at Moorhead that was broadcast on FSN, a game that your squad won 3-2. How amazing was that day?
Schulze: "It was unbelievable. It felt like I was a little kid again playing pond hockey in my backyard with the neighborhood kids."
B5Q: Can you give us a little insight as to how long you had been talking to the Badgers and maybe if you took any visits to Madison, how that whole thing played out?
Schulze: "Well I first started talking to Coach Butters last winter after I emailed him and he came out to one of my practices for Hill-Murray. Then after the season I played in a tournament for seniors called the Great 8 and I was still in contact with Coach Butters and in early May I went out for a visit. Then I was in contact with both Coach Eaves and Coach Butters throughout the summer and this past week I decided I wouldn't want to go to any other college than Wisconsin!"
B5Q: Were there any other schools that you were considering and in the end, why did you feel that Wisconsin was going to be the right choice for you?
Schulze: "I had been talking with a couple other schools throughout the last couple of months, but after visiting Madison and talking with the coaches there I knew that Wisconsin was the perfect fit for me. Not only hockey wise but academically as well."
B5Q: Twice you were overlooked for a roster spot in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League despite playing key roles for one of the best high school teams in the state. Is that something you use as motivation?
Schulze: "After not making Elite I was pretty disappointed and yeah, I think that i use it as motivation to try to prove to people that I was good enough to play in that league. Looking back on it though, I'm kinda glad that I didn't make it because if I had I might not be in this position right now."
B5Q: You were drafted by Muskegon and will play for former Wisconsin assistant Kevin Patrick this season before coming to Madison in 2012. The USHL is a great development league for players. Are you excited about getting an opportunity to grow your game in the USHL?
Schulze: "I am really excited about playing in the USHL. It is the best stepping stone for players who want to play college hockey. The best thing about my situation in Muskegon is I have a coach who knows first hand what it is like being a part of the hockey program at Wisconsin, and I'm going to try to not only become a better player under him, but also to try to get as much information out of him of what it is like in Madison."
B5Q: Most fans haven’t had a chance to watch you play yet. Can you describe how you play the game, some of your strengths and some of the aspects of your game you’re looking to improve before becoming a Badger?
Schulze: "I would say that I am a play-making defenseman, I like to use my skating ability and my vision of the ice to make plays happen and set up my teammates. I think the biggest thing that I need to work on is my strength, and here in Muskegon I'm in a perfect position to do that with all of the knowledge the coaching staff has here and with the amazing facilities I have at my access to."
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