We're back once again with our weekly "Take Five" series where we take a deeper look into the hockey Badgers opposition by chatting with local beat writers from around the country. This week Wisconsin is heading back home to the Kohl Center where they will host WCHA conference foe St. Cloud State University.
Since we caught up with SCSU beat writer Mick Hatten earlier this season, this week I changed it up and was able to chat with the radio voice of St. Cloud State Zack Fisch (@zackfisch), who announces Husky hockey games for 88.1 FM KVSC.
Wisconsin is coming off a series at North Dakota in which they were swept. St. Cloud is coming off a home and home series against Minnesota in which they were also swept.
This week I was able to chat with Zack about SCSU's goaltending situation, who has stepped up in the absense of multiple players who are injured offensively, as well as his prediction for the weekend.
Bucky's 5th Quarter: St. Cloud has been hit hard with injuries this season. Can you give us a brief update on who is OUT for this weekend's series vs Wisconsin?
Zack Fisch: The Huskies will have to play everyone that is healthy this weekend against the Badgers. The injuries for SCSU are at forward, meaning natural defenseman will again have to play up front. It was announced this week that Jordy Christian's season is done. He will have knee surgery. While he may not score a lot of points, he was having a great season and Coach Motzko said losing the senior was "a dagger through the heart."
Also out this weekend is Travis Novak who fell awkwardly leg first into the boards last Friday, and missed Saturday's game. The Huskies are hopefully he can return soon.
Drew LeBlanc broke his leg in the series earlier this year versus Wisconsin and is still quite some time away from even thinking about playing in a game. First-year David Morley is still out as well. He will take a medical redshirt after missing all season from lingering concussion issues.
Editors Note: St. Cloud is also without the services of sophomore forward Cam Reid who left the team to sign a contract with Portland of the WHL a few weeks back. Additionally, sophomore forward Mitch MacMillan left the program mid-season to transfer to North Dakota.
B5Q: Last weekend the Huskies only registered 25 shots on goal for the entire series vs Minnesota. Is that more to do with the injuries up front or a bad weekend of hockey for SCSU?
Fisch: The Huskies did not play poorly last weekend against the #3 Gophers, but simply put the team ran out of gas at times with the decimated roster, and passed up a great deal of offensive chances. Many from the Twin Cities media were raving about how impressive it was that SCSU was in two tight games with the Gophers considering the lineup SCSU has right now.
As far as the lack of shots, at times SCSU was a bit too fancy when a shot would have been a much better option. Ben Hanowski was the only one who scored all weekend for SCSU and in order to succeed the remaining healthy top six forwards need to up their game. Players like Jared Festler, David Eddy and Nic Dowd need to be at their best.
B5Q: Freshman defenseman Andrew Prochno has been one of the brighter spots on this year's club. What attributes does he bring to this team to make his transition from the USHL so flawless?
Fisch: Andrew Prochno is a special hockey player and has been a major bright spot for the Huskies. Coach Motzko is quick to point out Prochno's defensive partner Nick Jensen has been a big part of the transition and success. The two paired together can be potent offensively, and with the lack of firepower up front, scoring from the blueline is needed. Prochno is very poised, makes smart reads, has the ability to jump into the play, and is solid defensively. Add to that a bomb of a shot and a kid who wants to do nothing but learn and get better, and you have a player that has stepped right in from the USHL and become a top-two guy for SCSU.
B5Q: Mike Lee returned in goal last Friday for the first time since October and seemingly played pretty well. How did he look last weekend and should we expect him and Ryan Faragher to split the games between the pipes this weekend against the Badgers?
Fisch: Having Mike Lee back is great news for SCSU. Many thought his season would be over, but he has battled back. He played very well on Friday and will likely play at least one game this weekend. When he went down in October, a lot of people thought SCSU was in serious trouble. However, Ryan Faragher stepped in and proved everyone wrong, and has been nothing short of spectacular. SCSU has two guys that can start in goal any night and give the Huskies a chance to win.
Coach Motzko is not quite sure what he will do with the goaltending situation right now. Splitting the series would be the most obvious scenario, but from talking with coach on Wednesday, he's going to go with whoever he feel like gives him the best chance to win, so if one guy gets hot, we could see that dynamic change.
B5Q: Time to put you on the spot Zack. St. Cloud took 3 of 4 points against the Badgers at the National Hockey Center this fall, but the Huskies are just 3-9-1 outside of Stearns County and the Badgers are 11-4-1 at the Kohl Center. What's your prediction for the weekend?
Fisch: Despite all the injures for SCSU (and the departures of Mitch MacMillan and Cam Reid) the Huskies have played quite well over the last month. The goaltending will need to be strong for SCSU on the road this weekend in order to duplicate the success the team had against Wisconsin, because the offensive numbers they put up against the Badgers earlier this season simply aren't there at this point.
I had a chance to see Wisconsin dominate Mercyhurst earlier this year at the Kohl Center, and that home record is quite impressive, so I know just how potent the Badgers can be at the Kohl Center. All that said, if SCSU gets the goaltending and special teams, I feel we will see a split this weekend between the two teams. I'll go with the Huskies Friday, and the Badgers on Saturday in two close ones.
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