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Badgers lead charge at IIHF World Championships

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Ryan McDonagh #17 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates a goal.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Ryan McDonagh #17 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates a goal. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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First of all, I just wanted to thank Adam for bringing me on board to Bucky's 5th Quarter. It's an exciting opportunity and I'm looking forward to it. In my transition from my old blog there were a few different opportunities but this site had all the tools that I was looking for. Like Adam said in his introduction, he doesn't believe in half-assing things and that's the biggest reason I felt Bucky's 5th Quarter was the best fit for me.

I've been covering the Wisconsin hockey program since 2006 on a number of platforms but have been following the program my entire life. Those of you who have followed my work in the past know you can expect extensive coverage of the Badger hockey program at Bucky's 5th Quarter. That includes weekly series previews and recaps as well as in depth recruiting analysis and coverage of Badgers in the NHL that can't be found anywhere else.

With that said, let's get this thing started. As many of you are already aware, the Wisconsin hockey program is prominently represented on Team USA at the 2011 IIHF Men's World Championships. Former Badgers Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers), Jack Skille (Florida Panthers) and Jake Gardiner (Toronto Marlies) are on the squad as well as current Badger Craig Smith.

Smith, who has reiterated his plans to return to the Badgers for his junior season is exceeding expectations at the World Championships. Playing on Team USA's top line with Stepan and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Blake Wheeler, Smith leads the team in goals scored with 3 in 6 games and is second on the squad in points with 6.

Not to be out shined by his former teammate at Wisconsin, Stepan, who captained Team USA to the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships leads the team in scoring with 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists). The New York Rangers rookie forward is playing a prominent role for the red, white and blue. Stepan is averaging over 20 minutes per game, the highest among Team USA's forwards who have played every game.

Former Badgers captain Ryan McDonagh is also seeing big minutes for the United Sates. Skating on Team USA's second pairing with the Anaheim Ducks Cam Fowler, McDonagh has an assist and is averaging over 15 minutes a night. McDonagh is also one of only seven members of the team to have a positive plus/minus rating in the tournament.

Although his statistics don't necessarily show it, former Badger and current Florida Panthers forward Jack Skille is having a great tournament. Despite only netting 1 goal through 6 games, Skille has been a consistent threat for the United States.

Team USA who is 3-3 in the tournament is moving on to the Quarter-Finals on Wednesday. The United States will face the Czech Republic at 9:15 AM Central Time. You can watch the game live on TV on Versus.