Hockey Series Preview: Bemidji State

Bemidji 2

Alright, already the show goes on
all night, till the morning we dream so long
anybody ever wonder, when they would see the sun up
just remember when you come up
the show goes on

Lupe Fiasco--The Show Goes On

The Wisconsin men's hockey team returns to action this weekend as they travel to Bemidji for the second to last WCHA series of the season.

Last weekend Wisconsin hosted Denver and split with the Pioneers. After falling on Friday, the Badgers bounced back with arguably their best performance of the season in a 5-2 Saturday night victory.

The Badgers have struggled on the road, and are winless this season playing on NHL size ice surfaces like the one the Badgers will skate on this weekend.

Head coach Mike Eaves didn't sound too concerned with the ice size when speaking in his weekly press conference.

"You know what, we just need to play like we played on Saturday. And small sheet, big sheet, I don't think that is really relevant anymore," Eaves said.

Playing without two of their best forwards Saturday night in Derek Lee and Jefferson Dahl, the Badgers showed some offensive flair that had been lacking during their five game losing streak.

Dahl made the trip and is expected to play this weekend but Lee did not and is expected to miss his sixth and seventh games in a row this weekend.

BADGER OFFENSE

Sophomore Mark Zengerle busted out of a four game pointless streak with a goal and an assist on Saturday night. The Rochester, NY native is relied upon for offense from this Badger club and breaking out of the funk was a step in the right direction.

Zengerle will once again be paired up with Matt Paape and Michael Mersch. That line took some time to gel last weekend but really turned it on the last two periods on Saturday night.

An interesting line combination that was changed this week will feature Joseph LaBate with Keegan Meuer and Sean Little. The youngest Little had one of his best weekends of the season against Denver and was seemingly in every scrum.

Brendan Woods had an outstanding game on Saturday night for the Badgers as well. The freshman will be centering Ryan Little and Tyler Barnes this weekend. Woods has taken that second half step that you like to see out of freshmen where they are playing like they belong. His confidence this weekend will go a long ways towards the Badgers success on the scoreboard.

BADGER DEFENSE & GOALTENDING

I thought the Badger blue-line played excellent last weekend in holding Denver to just 4 goals (1 empty netter). The Pioneers featured some of the most talented forwards the Badgers will see this season and kept them in check.

John Ramage is starting to play like we thought he would this season when they put the "C" on his jersey. The junior defenseman was physical, moved the puck well and had a solid weekend.

Justin Schultz busted out of his scoring slump with a goal and an assist on Saturday night. Along with Zengerle, the Badgers need his name on the scoresheet on a nightly basis.

Landon Peterson is expected to start between the pipes Friday night. Joel Rumpel suffered a cut when Tyler Barnes slid into him that required 20 stitches. Rumpel will be able to play if called upon but Peterson's play last weekend was outstanding so Eaves will go back to him.

BEAVER OFFENSE

Bemidji has struggled to put the puck in the net this season which is evidenced by their negative 15 goal differential in league play.

However they do have a some guys to keep an eye on this weekend. Junior Jordan George who hails from Madison is the teams leading scorer and is a threat any time he touches the puck. George has 15 goals in 32 games this season and is also an outstanding playmaker. The Badgers never recruited him, and you know that he'll have an edge to him because of that this weekend.

Senior Shea Walters is also having the best season of his college hockey career with 10 goals.

BEAVER DEFENSE & GOALTENDING

The Beavers are headlined on the back end by senior blue-liner Brad Hunt. The 5'9 defenseman has an NHL caliber shot from the back end and is one of the best defensemen in the entire league. Hunt is an All-WCHA caliber player and is second on the Beavers in scoring.

Between the pipes you can expect to see senior Dan Bakala. The Calgary native struggled much of the first half of the season but has been outstanding since then. Bakala is tied for third in league play with a .921 save percentage.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Bemidji features one of the best combined special teams units in the nation. Bemidji is 17th in the country in power play percentage (20.4%), and 16th in penalty kill (83.8%). Their combined special teams % of 56.6% is tied for first in the nation with Boston University.

Wisconsin continues to be towards the bottom of the barrel in terms of penalty kill percentage but the Badgers were perfect last weekend against Denver who has one of the best power plays in the country.

THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS

  1. Get physical with Jordan George. He's the most talented forward on the Beaver roster by a long shot and Wisconsin needs to bump him anytime he touches the puck. If they shut him down they should be fine.
  2. Move the puck on the power play. I don't have a problem if they aren't firing shots because you need quality shot attempts on the power play. But they must move the puck to create open shooting lanes. Zengerele and Schultz simply passing back and forth isn't going to work either. They need to get McCabe more involved.
  3. Stay out of the penalty box. Seems pretty simple but the less time spent killing penalties, the better obviously. With the Badgers PK being one of the worst in the country, they need to be smart.

COVERAGE

There is no TV this weekend but there is a web-stream ($).

As always you can catch the games on radio on the Badger Sports Network and WIBA 1310.

POLLS

Neither team is ranked.

INJURIES

Wisconsin will be without junior forward Derek Lee (concussion).

LAST MEETING

Wisconsin swept Bemidji State last year in Madison.

FUN FACT

This is Wisconsin's first ever trip to Bemidji.

PREDICTION

Bemidji plays really well at home and the Badgers have been pretty bad on the road this season. However I think the Badgers gained quite a bit of confidence Saturday night when they dominated Denver. I see this one going as a split.

Friday Night: Wisconsin 3, Bemidji 2

Saturday Night: Bemidji 2, Wisconsin 1

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For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)

Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at chuckschwartz@live.com

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