Photo courtesy of Nicole Haase.
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits
and they’ve forgiven my mistakes
I’m coming home, I’m coming home
Tell the World that I’m coming
The Wisconsin men's hockey team is once again returning home to the Kohl Center for a crucial WCHA series. This week the Seawolves from Alaska-Anchorage have made the jaunt to Madison for what figures to be two hard fought league contests.
Last weekend the Badgers were on the road in Mankato to take on the Minnesota State Mavericks. Wisconsin took the opener on Friday night 4-0, earning their first road victory of the season. However the Badgers fell to the Mavericks on Saturday 3-0, despite holding the edge in scoring chances by a considerable margin.
Alaska-Anchorage is coming off a road series at Michigan Tech. Playing without three regulars, the Seawolves were swept by the Huskies in Houghton.
For the first time in a while the Badgers will have some consistency in their lineup in the form of who's playing with who. Last weekend marked the first time since October that the Badgers had their 12 regular forwards healthy for an entire series.
According to Andy Baggot at the Wisconsin State Journal, Mike Eaves and the rest of the Badger coaching staff has decided to roll with (projected) the same lineup that they trotted out both nights against Minnesota State last weekend.
Despite only scoring four goals on the weekend, the offense controlled pressure much of the weekend and dominated the Mavericks at times. The top line with Joseph LaBate and and Tyler Barnes on the wings of Mark Zengerle was a force all weekend long creating scoring chances. That unit once again will be looked upon for offense this weekend.
Zengerle's consecutive game point streak was broken on Saturday when the Badgers were shutout but I can guarentee you that the sophomore center will be looking to make Anchorage pay for that this weekend.
Last weekend was the first weekend back for Ryan Little and he proved why the Badgers missed his presence in the lineup when he was injured with his broken hand. The Fond du Lac winger showed off his speed and physicality that was lacking at times during his absence.
BADGER DEFENSE & GOALIES
For the first time since the middle of his freshman season, All-American Justin Schultz is on a three game scoring drought. Although if you've watched the Badgers over the past three games, it has nothing to do with his play. The Hobey Baker candidate has continued to be a force all over the ice and is generating chances for himself and his teammates. I would expect the West Kelowna, British Columbia native to bounce back in a big way against Anchorage.
The other five regulars on the Badger blue-line played (in my opinion) their best weekend of hockey this season against the Mavericks last weekend. The Badgers only gave up two goals over the wekeend and both goals came on the penalty kill.
John Ramage and Eric Springer, two players who have come under criticism from the fans as well as myself played strong two way hockey over the weekend and will need to keep taking positive steps for this club.
Joel Rumpel played two outstanding games between the pipes for the Badgers and has taken a stranglehold in my opinion on the number 1 job. Rumpel only allowed two goals on 67 shots between the two games and his confidence seems to grow by the day.
Alaska-Anchorage has taken a major hit offensively since the start of the season. Two of their premier forwards, Mickey Spencer (left program) and Jordan Kwas (academics) will not be available this weekend.
That's tough for a team that has struggled to score goals all season long. The Seawolves are only averaging 2.60 goals per game coming into the weekend and the loss of two of their most talented forwards won't help things.
The Seawolves top line of Curtis Leinweber, Eric Scheid, and Brett Cameron is the most explosive unit on the roster, and one that the Badgers will have to contain this weekend.
SEAWOLF DEFENSE & GOALIES
Derek Docken and Brad Gorham are the top two blue-liners for Anchorage and will probably be the pair in charge of facing the Zengerle line most of the weekend. the Seawolves don't get much offense from their defensemen but those two have chipped in six points apiece this season.
In net the Seawolves wil be without the services of Sophomore Rob Gunderson who stayed home to concentrate on academics. Last weekend Anchorage split the two games between sophomore Chris Kamal, who has the ability to steal a game (as witnessed by him shutting down the Gophers last year in the WCHA playoffs), and senior Dusan Sidor.
I would expect to see Kamal start on Friday and head coach Dave Shyiak go from there.
Friday night's game will be televised live on the Wisconsin Channel. Saturday's game will be live on TVW (& Charter Extra 87 around the state). You can also find both games on the radio on the Badger Sports Network and WIBA 1310.
Neither team is ranked.
Jason Clark showed up on the injury report this week (upper body).
The Badgers won 3-1 on Saturday night in Anchorage last season after falling 2-1 the night before.
Freshman defenseman Jake McCabe has five points in six games since returning from a hand injury.
Every game from here on out is a playoff series for the Badgers. If Wisconsin wants to play in the NCAA tournament, a sweep must happen against the 11th place Seawolves on home ice. I think the Badgers simply have too much firepower for Anchorage this season.
Friday: Wisconsin 6, Anchorage 2
Saturday: Wisconsin 2, Anchorage 1
Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!
For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)
Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com