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 local beat writers from around the country. This week Wisconsin is packing up the bus (errrr charter plane) and hitting the road as they travel to Grand Forks to take on North Dakota.
Earlier this week I was able to chat with North Dakota beat writer Brad Elliott Schlossman (@SchlossmanGF), who covers UND for the Grand Forks Herald. Brad also does a fantastic job with his GF Herald Hockey Blog which is dedicated to coverage of the men's and women's hockey teams at UND.
Wisconsin is coming off a home sweep last weekend against Alaska Anchorage. North Dakota split on the road at St. Cloud State.
This week I was able to chat with Brad about UND's goaltending situation, who has stepped up in the absense of outstanding defensemen like the departed Chay Genoway, as well as his prediction for the weekend.B5Q: Is Ben Blood going to come off the ice this weekend? Ok, that wasn't a serious question, but how are the other younger defensemen developing for UND? Guys like Panzarella, and Simpson?
Schlossman: There probably won't be too many minutes this weekend where neither Ben Blood nor Justin Schultz are on the ice. Both are very key players who play big minutes for their teams. Dillon Simpson got off to a slow start this season but has really picked it up. After going pointless in the first nine games of the year, Simpson has 12 points in the last 16 games. Freshman Nick Mattson also is very dynamic from the back end. Andrew Panzarella is a stay-at-home guy, quiet but efficient.
B5Q: Both Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness played well in St. Cloud last weekend, although it surpirsed me to see Eids get the nod last Friday. Can we expect both again this weekend?
Schlossman: I think there's an above-average chance we see both of them this weekend. Eidsness was real solid on Friday night, allowing two no-chancers. Dell came back and played very well Saturday in getting the win. I think UND is comfortable with either guy.
B5Q: 14 of Brock Nelson's team leading 17 goals this year have come during WCHA play. Is he a kid who just seems to elevate his play against better competition or is that a coincidence?
Schlossman: Well, with the way the WCHA has struggled this season, maybe those are the easier games? Nelson has been great at finishing this year. He's got quick hands and his shot is better than it was last year. He's been especially good on the power play. He leads the nation with nine power-play goals.
B5Q: What's the biggest key for UND to have success this weekend?
Schlossman: I think UND's top line needs to score. If that unit doesn't score, UND will have trouble winning. The same could be said for Schultz and Mark Zengerle for Wisconsin. So on the flip side, I could throw out shutting those two down as something that will lead to success.
B5Q: Ok, time to put you on the spot Brad, are you buying the first round at Joe Black's after the game? Additionally, what's your prediction for this weekend?
Schlossman: No, I will be busy starting fights at Gilly's. As for predictions, I know that Wisconsin has been playing very well (7-2-1 in last 10). But I thought UND played well in Madison despite getting swept. UND found a way to lose two winnable games. This weekend, I'm going to predict that the fortunes are reversed and UND finds a way to win two games that should be tight.
As always, we can't thank Brad enough for the time in chatting with us about the series this weekend. Make sure you check out his work on twitter (@SchlossmanGF), on his blog, as well as at the GF Herald.
Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!
For more Wisconsin hockey coverage, follow Chuck on Twitter (@UWChuckSchwartz)
Chuck can also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org