With Wisconsin recently wrapping up a series with Minnesota-Duluth, the Badgers are officially just past the half way point in the season. Wisconsin has completed 18 of their 34 games, and has compiled an underwhelming 7-9-2 record.
With their 4-8-2 conference record, the Badgers have an uphill climb to earn home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Currently Wisconsin is ranked 19th (out of 58) in the country in scoring offense at 3.17 goals per game, and 46th in the country in scoring defense at 3.28 goals against per game.
The Badger power play currently ranks 15th in the nation at 21.7%, but the penalty kill is 50th in the country, killing only 75.3% of their penalties.
However, things are looking up for Wisconsin. Freshman Jake McCabe finally returned to action last weekend after missing five and a half weeks to a hand injury. The Badgers are also expected to get back junior forwards Derek Lee and Ryan Little after the holiday break.
Overall Offense: (B-)
The only upperclassmen in the Badger stable of forwards are Derek Lee and Ryan Little. Lee has been out since late October with his hand injury and Little has been playing with a broken hand since mid-October.
Relying on a bevy of freshmen and sophomores up front, Wisconsin has probably been better than most had expected coming into the season.
- Mark Zengerle (A-): The sophomore is tied for fourth in the nation in scoring, so it's pretty hard to complain. Starting to get his shot off more often this season and it's shown in his goal totals. He hasn't reached his peak, which is scary for the rest of the WCHA. 18 GP, 8 G, 19 A, 27 Pts.
- Tyler Barnes (B+): Barnes has taken the next step in his second season on campus and is always a threat to make something happen when he's on the ice. He's an absolute bear when he carries the puck down the wing. The coaches would like to see more consistency in the second half. 18 GP, 7 G, 11 A, 18 PTS.
- Michael Mersch (B): He's kind of been overshadowed by classmates Barnes and Zengerle this season but he's been a silent assassin. Has taken an expanded role with injuries to others in the lineup. Mersch needs to continue working on getting quicker. 18 GP, 6 G, 9 A, 15 PTS.
- Joseph LaBate (B): The freshman was expected to make an impact but no one has expected him to be this good this soon. He's big, mobile, and gets to the net. Will be a dangerous player in the second half. 18 GP, 3 G, 9 A, 12 PTS.
- Jefferson Dahl (B-): Not noticeable by many because he's not on the score sheet a lot, but he's taken a huge role with the penalty kill and is solid in the face-off circle. Arguably the most hockey-smart player on the roster. 18 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS
- Brendan Woods (B-): Woods was far from a lock to even be in the lineup on a consistent basis when the season started. However his play, coupled with an injury or two saw him playing first line minutes again last weekend. As his confidence grows, his game seems to pick up. 16 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 PTS.
- Keegan Meuer (B-): Again, not a huge scorer but brings intensity and wears his heart on his sleeve. He'll run through a wall if that's what the coaches ask of him. 18 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS.
- Ryan Little (C+): Had been working on the #1 penalty kill unit with Dahl before his injury. It's an under rated asset to have a shutdown defensive forward like Ryan Little on the team. 14 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 PTS.
- Matt Paape (C+): Another player that came in with lower expectations but has blown them out of the water. Paape is slippery and gets himself in good positions. It will be exciting to watch Paape's game grow as the season progresses. 17 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 PTS.
- Brad Navin (C+): The adjustment to D-1 hockey is tough enough, but it's almost unheard of to do it straight out of Wisconsin high school hockey. Navin hadn't had much of an impact until last weekend but now has piqued the interest of a lot of fans. 17 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS.
- Jason Clark (C): The former third round draft pick hasn't been a factor in his season and a half in Madison yet, mostly due to nagging hip injuries. However, he's starting to show flashes of why he was a highly touted prospect with his speed and puck skills. 12 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS
- Sean Little (C-): Has been in and out of the lineup all season but has been noticeable when in. He fills a lot of the same roles as his brother Ryan. Will need to continue to bring the intensity to earn minutes in the second half. 14 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS.
- Derek Lee (Incomplete): Was showing signs of becoming an elite player in the WCHA before his injury. Lee will be relied upon by Eaves in the second half to give the offense a much needed lift. 7 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS.
- Tyler Lapic (Incomplete): Has only been in the lineup a hand full of times this season so it's hard to get an accurate grade. Lapic protected the puck well in the corners in his limited action. 4 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS.
Overall Defense: (C)
The defense this season has been unacceptable by the standards set by previous players who have come through the program. The Badgers are 46th in the nation in team defense and that can't be blamed on the freshmen goaltenders either.
Wisconsin has been atrocious on the penalty kill and that has to be a point of emphasis in the second half of the season. The Badges are improving but they are still only killing 75.3% of their penalties which is eighth worst in the country.
Outside of Justin Schultz this group has been mediocre and must improve their play in the second half if the Badgers are going to make any noise down the stretch. The return of Jake McCabe should have a positive impact.
- Justin Schultz (A): He's tied for second in the country in scoring, and he's a defenseman, hard not to be impressed. He's the leading candidate to win the Hobey Baker and the backbone of this Wisconsin club. 18 GP, 9 G, 19 A, 28 PTS.
- Frankie Simonelli (B): Frankie has been a pleasant surprise this season. When McCabe went down, Simonelli stepped up and replaced some of the minutes and has been an asset on the blue line. 18 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS.
- Joe Faust (C+): Faust is quietly surpassing some of his teammates on the pecking order. He moves the puck well, has a cannon of a shot, and has improved his play in the d-zone. 18 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS.
- John Ramage (C): Hard to call this season for Ramage anything but a disappointment. He's been decent, but he's the captain of the team and was expected to be an All-WCHA type performer. He's been unlucky, but ultimately needs to step up in the second half. 18 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS.
- Patrick Daly (C-): Like Navin, Daly is making the jump directly from high school hockey and it shows. He's a phenomenal skater but doesn't always trust his instincts. 11 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS.
- Eric Springer (C-): The only senior on the roster has had way too many ups and downs. He was given a bigger role with McCabe injured but hasn't run with it like many expected. Has a chance to improve his legacy if he can help carry the Badgers in the second half to a decent finish. 16 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 PTS.
- Chase Drake (Incomplete): The Sophomore saw his first action as a Badger and has played in two games but hasn't seen enough for a fair evaluation. Proved he deserves to be at this level despite limited action. 2 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS
- Gavin Hartzog (Incomplete): Started the season at forward but was moved back to defense at the urging of assistant coach Bill Butters. Hartzog has yet to play a game as a defense. 7 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS.
- Jake McCabe (Incomplete): The freshman looked like the real deal through the first two weekends before a hand laceration forced him into surgery. He will see big minutes in the second half. 7 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PT.
Overall Goaltending (B-)
I think it would be a lie to say that I'm not impressed with the way that Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel have stepped in as freshmen and not looked out of place. Their statistics aren't outstanding but I'm not sure it's been indicative of their play.
The team is growing together but knowing that they have two solid options between the pipes has given this young club confidence that they are going to be in every game.
After splitting action the first five weekends of the year, the coaching staff has started to favor Rumpel, who has earned that role.
- Joel Rumpel (B): Rumpel was the more highly touted recruit and he's played like it so far. He's big, athletic, and looks like he's going to be an asset for years to come. 5-4-2, 3.12 GAA, .902 save percentage.
- Landon Peterson (C+): Peterson's stats probably don't reflect his grade but he's been scored on a number of times by his own team on deflections. Peterson has turned into an exciting player after having little to no expectations coming in. 2-5, 3.46 GAA, .884 save percentage.
- Mitch Thompson (Incomplete): Saw his first action when he relieved Joel Rumpel in a blowout win against Mercyhurst. It was a nice moment for the walk-on junior from Onalaska.
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