When Mark Zengerle came in as a recruit to the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2010, his talents were undeniable. Zengerle was an offensive dynamo during his junior career, racking up 223 points in 129 games over two seasons with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
That success has carried over to the college game, as Zengerle has become one of the elite point producers in NCAA hockey. While the points are great, Zengerle has also turned himself into a formidable player on both ends of the rink, and that includes killing penalties.
As a freshman two seasons ago, Zengerle didn't see much time when the Badgers were short-handed. The Rochester, N.Y. native was added to the penalty kill last season, and has been a regular on the unit early this year.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves noted earlier this season that Zengerle doesn't get enough credit for the things he does defensively.
"People don't give him enough credit," Eaves noted after an early season game vs Northern Michigan.
"He's a hard working, competitive young man."
Playing on the penalty kill is a demanding chore at times, forcing players to give their bodies up for the good of the team to block shots from reaching the net. Zengerle has embraced the role, and has been noticeable blocking shots this season.
Zengerle noted a few weeks ago after a game vs Minnesota-Duluth in which he blocked multiple shots on a late-game five-minute penalty kill that he's carried it over from his Salmon Arm days.
"I swear I was like that in juniors; I get pretty competitive. I guess people don't really think that a lot of me, but that's something that I try to have in my game," Zengerle said.
"(Blocking shots is) something I definitely try to do to help the team win."
Unfortunately, an innocent looking blocked shot Saturday night has cost Zengerle at minimum the next month of the season.
While on the penalty kill 1:20 into the second period, Zengerle dropped to one knee block a Joe Marciano one-timer. Looking back at the video, the puck appears to strike Zengerle's left hand and deflects into the corner. A screen shot of the play has been posted at the top of this article.
In the video Zengerle is clearly in pain and is having trouble holding onto his stick with that left hand, which for a right-handed shot is his top hand on the knob of the stick.
In typical hockey player fashion Zengerle stays out on the ice, as you never want to leave your team down another man while you're still in the defensive zone. Unfortunately the puck comes to Zengele along the boards just moments after the injury, and without access to his left hand is unable to clear the zone.
Colorado College would score shortly after the failed clearing attempt.
Obviously the goal isn't the fault of Zengerle, as it's borderline impossible to control the puck, let alone shoot it down the ice with one hand.
After the game Zengerle told Bucky's 5th Quarter that he knew it was broke instantly. In fact, he used the term 'mangled' when describing what his injured finger looked like immediately after the injury.
Zengerle also noted that it's expected he'll be out anywhere from one month to six weeks while the injury heals. That would put his timeline to return sometime in mid-December.
We asked Zengerle for an update Tuesday night, and he told us that he actually had surgery on Monday to correct the broken finger on his left hand.
Zengerle said that surgery went well, and he's hoping that he can heal fast so he may rejoin his teammates as soon as possible.
That's obviously good news for Badger fans who are looking for a quick return from UW's top line center.
The Badgers had been struggling offensively this season even with Zengerle in the lineup, so his loss isn't going to do much to help things. Through six games Wisconsin is just 49th in the country in scoring, averaging a meager 1.83 goals per game.
Wisconsin is off on a bye this weekend, and will head to Minnesota in two weeks to take on the Gophers. Look for the Badger coaching staff to get creative with the lineup to try and generate more offense while Zengerle is sidelined.
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