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 their local beat writer. With the Badgers playing a non-conference series this weekend, we were treated to talking with a beat writer who isn't normally on the schedule. This week we were fortunate enough to speak with Victor Fernandes (@GoErieHockey), who covers Mercyhurst for GoErie.com.
Wisconsin is coming off a road series at Colorado College that saw them get swept by the Tigers at World Arena. The first period was costly for the Badgers as they gave up five of CC's eight goals on the weekend in the first period. Mercyhurst is coming off a home tie and win vs conference foe Bentley.
I was able to talk to Victor about the start to Mercyhurst's season, playing on the road at the Kohl Center, and of course his prediction for this weekends series.
B5Q: Mercyhurst has gone 6-1-1 after starting the year 0-4. But they seem to be a different team at home (5-1-1) than on the road/neutral site (1-4-1). Is there something to those significant home/road splits or were they just getting their feet wet early and have started to get the ball rolling in the right direction?
Fernandes: The Lakers are known for starting slow in the win-loss column, even with more experienced teams, because of the non-conference road schedule coach Rick Gotkin plays every year. He will play any team, any time, anywhere. They began this season with losses at Nebraska Omaha and to Alaska and Alaska Anchorage in Fairbanks. And the Lakers dominated Robert Morris in the other game, only to lose 2-1.
B5Q: Four out of the Lakers top six point producers this point have been freshmen. Is it concerning that they are going to have to rely on such young players this weekend in one of the most hostile environments in college hockey at the Kohl Center?
Fernandes: I'm sure Rick will be concerned, given how difficult it is to play, let alone win, in Kohl Center. But when half your team is made up of freshmen, they are going to overcome many challenges this season. Playing at Kohl is one of them.
B5Q: Senior goaltender Max Strang has been outstanding this season judging by his numbers. Although his career numbers suggest he's due for a let down. Has he finally "figured it out" or is he getting more help from his defensemen/defensive scheme then he has in the past?
Fernandes: Max Strang doesn't really have a past to build from this season. He entered this season having appeared in only 11 games the past three years. He was stuck behind a four-year starter, Ryan Zapolski, who graduated last spring. But he really has embraced this opportunity to be a starter, and the team in front of him has played well. Max has faced quite a few shots this season. He's had to make 40-plus stops in a game twice already. But many of those shots have been from the outside, as opposed to in front of the net. He's made the saves, and they have cleared the puck well.
B5Q: Mercyhurst wins this weekend if?
Fernandes: If Max plays another stellar game, and this young team isn't overwhelmed by the hostile atmosphere in Kohl Center. And as always, special teams will play a key role.
B5Q: Time to put you on the spot Victor, what is your prediction for the Wisconsin/Mercyhurst series?
Fernandes: Given Mercyhurst's history against the WCHA (1-24-0) and power conferences in general (16-83-9) and the mystique of Kohl Center, I can't see them winning either game. But you can't bet the Lakers will make life difficult for the Badgers.
We can't thank Victor enough for taking the time to help us out. I'm really looking forward to this series this weekend. Make sure to follow Victor on twitter (@GoErieHockey).