Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves has noted on more than a few occasions this year that his young team has been able to handle things that have been thrown their way because of their youth. That may sound strange, but Eaves believes that sometimes a young squad doesn't play as up tight as a veteran team that knows the stakes.
"Sometimes with a young team, they didn't seem to be phased by the fact that we were getting outshot. We just kept playing and had the attitude like things are going to be all right," Eaves noted in his weekly press conference. "And that, again, may be attributed to the fact that being young and naïve, they just kept playing ."
This young Badger squad that averages just under 21 years of age will have more adversity to overcome this week as they host Nebraska-Omaha. Wisconsin came out of their series against North Dakota with two check marks in the win column, but certainly did not escape unscathed.
Two Wisconsin regulars, forward Ryan Little, and defenseman Jake McCabe suffered injuries over the weekend in the series against the Fighting Sioux.
McCabe's injury came on Friday night which forced an early exit for the freshman blue-liner. Many thought his injury occurred when he was boarded by UND forward Dan Senkbeil. While that seemed likely, it wasn't the case. While sitting on the bench a few minutes later, McCabe took his glove off to take a drink of water. At the same time, a teammate who was jumping over the boards caught him with the blade of his skate.
McCabe told the Wisconsin State Journal this week that the the blade cut a tendon near his hand. McCabe had surgery on Friday night and is expected to miss anywhere from 5-8 weeks with the injury.
McCabe had been playing on the top defense pairing with Justin Schultz as well as the number one power play. He's expected to be replaced by senior Eric Springer who saw extended time after McCabe was lost on Friday. Freshman Patrick Daly who has been in and out of the lineup this year is also expected to have his minutes increase for the foreseeable future.
While McCabes injury was obvious, since he left in the middle of the game Friday night, Ryan Little's was under the radar. Known as one of the toughest guys on the team, Little's injury wasn't made public until yesterday when he was seen wearing a brace around his left wrist and thumb.
Wisconsin beat writer Andy Baggot noted that tests done on the wrist were still pending as of yesterday. There has not been an update on Little's prognosis since the initial report.
If Little can't go this weekend, and it certainly is pointing in that direction, the Badgers have a host of options waiting for their opportunity.
One of those options is sophomore Jason Clark, who has yet to suit up for the Badgers this season. Clark, a third round draft pick of the New York Islanders battled hip injuries as a freshman and had off-season surgery on both hips. Clark is finally healthy and ready to make an impact. He could very well see his first action Friday night at the Kohl Center.
Andy Baggot from the Wisconsin State Journal has an update late tonight that Ryan Little has been cleared to play as long as he can tolerate the pain. Little told Baggot that "there's some broken stuff'' in his left hand, but that he plans to tough it out this weekend against Nebraska-Omaha.
Apparently Little re-aggravated an old injury on Friday night blocking a shot. Amazingly, he put up a goal and two assists in Saturday night's 5-4 win over North Dakota despite the injury.
Little will wear a brace while he's on the ice to protect the hand.