Photo Credit: Larry Radloff/INCHWriters.com
Damn, it feels nice to win a game
Can you recall the last time the Wisconsin hockey team won a game before this past weekend? I'll help you out -- it was October 26th at Minnesota-Duluth.
Wisconsin finally ended its winless streak on Saturday night in toppling fifth-ranked Denver, 3-1, on the road at Magness Arena. That's an eight-game winless streak stretched over 36 days. Sure does feel nice for the coaching staff, the team and the fans to finally feel that winning feeling again.
"From the coaching standpoint, it was the exact medicine we needed to get ourselves going in the right direction," head coach Mike Eaves said during his weekly press conference.
"You can only tell (the team) so long you have to make the right choices and do the right things, but a win solidifies all that and makes it easier to go back to the rink on Monday and get back to work."
Wisconsin sure does have a lot of work to do, but as senior center Derek Lee said after the game Saturday, it's nice to finally get rewarded for all the hard work that they have been putting in behind closed doors.
"It's good to get it off our shoulders, and show that the work's paying off."
It's nice to have Nic Kerdiles in the lineup, finally
Quite the understatement, obviously.
After an egregious penalty of 10 games was handed down by the NCAA, no one knew if Kerdiles would stick around to be a Badger. The second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks had options to play immediately in the Western Hockey League. After some deliberation with his family, the Irvine, Calif., native decided that Wisconsin was the place he needed to be.
Kerdiles' first games after his suspension came this past weekend at Denver, and the freshman winger was an immediate spark for the Badgers. Kerdiles registered three shots on goal in the opener on Friday in a 1-1 tie, and added a pair of shots and a pair of assists on Saturday in a 3-1 victory over the fifth-ranked Pioneers.
One of Kerdiles' shots on Saturday ended up in the back of the net, but was later awarded to junior Jefferson Dahl as it clipped off his leg as he was skating past the front of the net.
Kerdiles talked with the media after the game before his goal was eventually given to Dahl, but he noted that all that mattered was that the puck ended up in the cage.
"To be honest, I still don't know whether it went off (Jefferson) Dahl or not but I could care less," Kerdiles said. "The puck went in the net. If that was my goal, then awesome. It's a game winner at the end of the day."
While he tries to play himself into game shape, Kerdiles noted that he's trying to keep his game simple and will do whatever he can to help this club.
"I just try to bring energy for the team right now, just do the best I can out there, try to keep it simple."
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves was impressed with what Kerdiles immediately brought to the table for Wisconsin this weekend.
"Very much a positive impact," Eaves said in regards to his freshman winger.
"You could see the energy he brought to the ice. He won battles. He had a couple of assists on Saturday because he was around the puck."
With the expected return of Mark Zengerle to the lineup this weekend, Wisconsin's top six will have a a significantly different look. The trio of Kerdiles, Zengerle, and Barnes could be one of the more exciting lines in the league.
John Ramage is back to his old self
One hotly contested topic in regards to last seasons Badger club was the play of captain John Ramage. After two outstanding seasons as a freshman and sophomore, the St. Louis native seemed to regress a bit in his junior campaign last year.
He also ran into some awful luck. To be honest, I don't remember the exact number, but there were at least four goals scored by the opposition last year that caromed of Ramage and into the Badger net. Some players could go their entire careers without it happening once, let alone that many times in one season.
Regardless, the old Ramage is back, and he's carrying the Badger blue-line this season.
Son of former NHL'er Rob, John played another outstanding weekend for Wisconsin against No. 5 Denver. They don't keep track of minutes played at the collegiate level, but Ramage certainly led UW in ice time in the mile-high city.
With a team that currently lacks goal scoring, there isn't much margin for error. It helps when guys like Ramage are playing lights out on the back end to shut down the opposition.
During his press conference on Monday, Eaves noted that Wisconsin blocked 35 shots this weekend.
"We had 35 blocked shots, which is our most for the first half of the season," Eaves said. "That might be a record. I'd have to go back and check."
The majority of those blocks were Ramage, who's playing like a guy who wants to make sure everyone knows he deserves that 'C' on his chest.
Quite the goaltending controversy brewing in Madison
Coming into the season Joel Rumpel was anointed the starter based on his play down the stretch for UW at the end of last season. The sophomore from Saskatchewan was outstanding at the end of the year as he carried the Badgers' in the second half.
That's all well and good, but his 'backup' Landon Peterson wasn't about to go quietly. Peterson started the second game of the season vs Northern Michigan, but didn't get another opportunity until a month later, which wasn't helped by a pair of bye weekends.
Since the long layoff, Peterson has been outstanding, carrying a .941 save percentage in those contests, and a .933 save percentage overall for the entire season.
Peterson was outstanding again this past weekend, as was Rumpel. Each goaltender let in just a single goal on the weekend as they each played one game last weekend.
Considering Denver was the number one scoring team in the country heading into last weekend averaging over four goals per game, I think Wisconsin fans can rest easy knowing their goaltending tandem held the Pioneers to just two goals on the entire weekend.
So who does Eaves play going forward? I'm not sure there is a right answer. Peterson's numbers (.933 Sv. %, 2.12 GAA) are excellent, and Rumpel's numbers (.917 Sv. %, 2.41 GAA) are solid as well.
At this point both goaltenders need see time until this thing works itself out.
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