Wisconsin hockey series preview: Former WCHA rival Colorado College comes to Madison

Larry Radloff Photography

The Badgers host former league rival CC this weekend, including a nationally televised game Friday on the NBC Sports Network at 6:30 p.m. CT.

The last time Wisconsin and Colorado College squared off, there was quite a bit at stake. The winner would be presented the Broadmoor Trophy and move on to the NCAA tournament, while the other would be looking to book tee times the following Monday.

The Badgers came out on top, finishing an improbable run through the WCHA playoffs.

While the stakes might not be as high this weekend, the addition of national television adds some spice to the series. Friday's game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network, a treat Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves says his team is looking forward to.

"For our guys to know they're going to be on national TV, there's no question," Eaves said. "I don't think we even have to mention that. You'll see a little extra spring in their step because they know they are on there."

Last weekend, the Badgers got back on track, sweeping conference foe Penn State at the Kohl Center. With an extended homestand coming over the next two months, Eaves was happy to start the stretch on a positive note.

"Really important, the fact that we felt we played halfway decent, especially on Saturday night, but the fact that we get a couple wins under our belt and get some momentum going," Eaves said. "Especially with a 12 game home stand, and that's a nice way to start.

"We just need to continue to do that now and keep that momentum rolling for us."

Wisconsin offense

Believe it or not, the Wisconsin coaching staff was actually more pleased with Saturday's performance, despite the 7-1 win over Penn State Friday night.

"I didn't think we played structurally very well on Friday," Eaves said. "The thing that we did well is score goals, and that covers up a lot of mistakes."

Seven different players scored for the Badgers in Friday's game, while sophomore Nic Kerdiles potted a goal in both contests, including Saturday's game winner in the third period.

Another offensive star for Wisconsin last weekend was senior Sean Little, who earned the game puck on Friday and the hard hat for his performance in the finale. Known more for his ability to kill penalties, Little scored a goal Saturday and set up another after making a big hit on a Penn State defenseman that caused a turnover.

With 11 goals last weekend, Wisconsin moves up to No. 12 in the country in scoring offense. Through 12 contests this season, the Badgers are averaging 3.42 goals per game.

Wisconsin defense and goaltenders

Senior defenseman Joe Faust has been one of the more pleasant surprises this season on both ends of the ice. The Bloomington, Minn., native came into the season with just eight points in 99 career games, but has doubled that output in just the first 12 games alone this fall.

Last weekend, Faust scored Wisconsin's third goal on Saturday while continuing to log big minutes on the back end.

"It's nice for Joe because it's his senior year," Eaves said this week. "He's playing his best hockey. He's getting some reward for that, and we need him to play as he is because he's in our top four defensemen, and we need him.

"Sometimes you're going to play against the other team's best forwards, and I think he's getting to this point where he realizes I can shut them down. I can make it very difficult for them to play and be successful."

Goaltender Joel Rumpel was given the nod between the pipes on both Friday and Saturday for the first time this season. All indications are that he'll be given the nod again on Friday night, which would be his fourth consecutive start.

Colorado College offense

One of the more surprising topics in college hockey through this point in the season has been the production -- or lack thereof -- from Colorado College. So far, the Tigers have just two wins through 15 games and are averaging a meager 1.60 goals per game.

CC was much better last weekend, earning a win on Friday and losing in a shootout Saturday when it hosted Nebraska-Omaha.

"Our forwards played well on Friday and okay Saturday," Tigers coach Scott Owens told local reporters this week. "Our defensemen and goaltending have been consistently good. We need to keep on building on our success and that includes getting our power play back on track."

One guy expected to be an All-American caliber player this season is senior Alexander Krushelnyski, but to this point the production has been lacking. Through 15 games this season, Krushelnyski has just a pair of goals and seven points. That's coming off a season in which the talented winger notched 15 goals and 43 points.

Another disappointment has been former Shattuck-St. Mary's left winger Hunter Fejes, who has yet to find the score sheet this season.

One impact freshman to keep an eye on this weekend is right winger Alex Roos, who has been playing on a line with Krushelnyski and leads the team with four goals.

Colorado College defense and goaltenders

If you see Colorado College fans at the Kohl Center this weekend, there's a good chance they are fans of either Milwaukee native Peter Maric or former Stevens Point defenseman Aaron Harstad.

"It's exciting to get to play in front of family and friends," Harstad told the Colorado Springs Gazette this week. "That will be fun. But all the guys are focused on keeping things headed in the right direction."

Harstad plays a ton of minutes for the Tigers, and has been paired up with impact freshman Jaccob Slavin the past two weeks. Slavin has been one of the few pleasant surprises for CC to this point, as he's tied for the team lead in points with seven.

Senior captain Eamonn McDermott is another player who has been underperforming from a production standpoint to this point. After a 20-assist junior campaign, McDermott has just one as a senior.

With the graduation of Joe Howe, you can expect to see Josh Thorimbert between the pipes in both games this weekend. The senior goalkeeper has a respectable .909 save percentage in 15 games.

Special teams

One group that continues to improve is the Wisconsin penalty kill. The group has been noticeably better since the Boston weekend, due in large part to video work with assistant coach Gary Shuchuk.

"Part of the solution has just been repetition in games and getting used to each other," Eaves said. "Coach Shuchuk is in charge of that, and he does a great job. And they watch video.

"I just think having repetitions in games, getting their feet together and working together again, and doing it more consistently has been a big help."

On the offensive end, the Badgers scored just one power play goal last weekend, but had 10 chances on Saturday alone. Eaves is hoping Wisconsin can build some momentum from Saturday's goal on the man advantage.

"To break that ice again and kind of be able to puff our chest out a little bit was really important. I know they were relieved," Eaves said.

"They've been doing good things and they've done a lot of good things but put the puck in the net. So to find the back of the net was really good for their confidence."

By the numbers


WISCONSIN
COLORADO COLLEGE
RECORD
6-5-1 (2-2-0-0 Big Ten)
2-10-3
SCORING OFFENSE
3.42/gm (12th)
1.60/gm (58th)
SCORING DEFENSE
3.25/gm (47th)
3.00/gm (35th)
POWER PLAY
16.3% (38th) 9.7% (56th)
PENALTY KILL
83% (26th)
83.1% (25th)
PAIRWISE RANKING
No. 15
No. 48
RPI
No. 15
No. 48
KRACH
No. 18
No. 43
AVG. HEIGHT/WEIGHT
5'11.92, 190.15 pounds 6'0.04, 186.57 pounds
AVG. AGE
21 years, 9 months
21 years, 2 months

Coverage

Friday's game will be shown nationally on the NBC Sports Network (Dave Strader, Anson Carter). There is no TV for Saturday, but the game will be streamed for a fee.

Brian Posick will have the radio call for both games on WIBA 1310. Joining Brian in the booth this weekend will be Rob Andringa on Friday and Bary Richter on Saturday.

Polls

Wisconsin is ranked No. 15 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.

Colorado College is not ranked.

Injuries

None.

Last meeting

Wisconsin defeated CC, 3-2, in the championship game of the 2013 WCHA Final Five. The Badgers received goals from Sean Little, Tyler Barnes and the eventual game-winner from tournament MVP Nic Kerdiles.

Fun fact

Outside of Minnesota, Wisconsin has played Colorado College more than any other team. This weekend's games will mark the 185th and 186th meetings between the two schools. Wisconsin's 109 victories over CC are the most over any of its opponents.

Projected lineup

Joseph LaBate-Mark Zengerle-Tyler Barnes
Grant Besse-Nic Kerdiles-Michael Mersch
Sean Little-Jefferson Dahl-Jedd Soleway
Brad Navin-Keegan Meuer-Matt Paape

Jake McCabe-Frankie Simonelli
Kevin Schulze-Joe Faust
Eddie Wittchow-Chase Drake

Joel Rumpel
Landon Peterson
Adam Miller

Quotable

"I think they're both on the rise," Eaves said this week, talking about his two freshmen wingers, Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway. "They're becoming more comfortable with the way we want to play as a team and how they fit into that."

Wisconsin in the media

Wisconsin Hockey Hour: Host Brian Posick with Mike Eaves and Mark Johnson

"On Wisconsin" with Brian Posick: Tuesday's with Shuey (interview starts at 26:00)

B5Q: Forward prospect Cameron Hughes visiting this weekend

B5Q: Grant Besse promoted to top-6 forward role (Andy Johnson)

B5Q: Consistent play bringing out the best in Badgers (Matt Masterson)

USCHO: Wisconsin building an identity

Wisconsin State Journal: Roles growing for freshmen Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway

UWBadgers: Wisconsin co-host for 2016 Frozen Four in Tampa

UWBadgers: Barnes goal still a highlight for Badgers

UWBadgers: Mike Eaves press conference recap

Badger Hockey Digest

For more hockey coverage, follow Andy on Twitter --
You can also reach Andy via e-mail (AndyJohnsonB5Q@gmail.com)

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