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Wisconsin hockey series preview: Boston University

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The Badgers have their hands full once again this weekend as they host Jack Eichel and No. 2 Boston University in a two-game series.

Richard T Gagnon - Getty

If we're being honest with ourselves, last Friday's 8-1 loss to Michigan Tech was rock bottom. A lifeless Wisconsin team was dominated up and down the rink by the fifth-ranked Huskies. The loss left UW with a 1-11-1 record at the time.

The positive news, however, is that the Badgers bounced back in the series finale and secured a 2-0 victory. The effort was much better on Saturday and so was the crowd, as the atmosphere seemed to build with every save from Joel Rumpel. The senior netminder finished the game with an incredible 47 saves.

The shutout was the 10th of Rumpel's Wisconsin career, which puts him in second place in Badgers history, behind only Brian Elliott, who had 16.

Things don't get any easier for Wisconsin this weekend, as No. 2 Boston University rolls into Madison for a two-game series at the Kohl Center.

The Terriers are a very, very good hockey club and feature potential No. 1 overall NHL Draft pick Jack Eichel, who currently leads the nation in points per game.

The Badgers are currently in a stretch of games where they play against a number of top teams including Minnesota and Michigan in addition to Boston University and Michigan Tech. Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves believes that challenge is going to make UW better in the long run.

"We're playing good teams, so it's going to draw us up to a higher level, and that's what we want for our young men," Eaves said. "And by doing this, by playing against good teams, it helps us to play our best hockey at the end of the year, which was one of our three short-term goals in the second half"

Wisconsin offense

While the Badgers didn't get much offense last weekend, there was one player who was very noticeable in both games. Of course I'm referring to Morgan Zulinick, who scored in both games and is now riding a four-game scoring streak. The redshirt sophomore forward leads the team in goals with five and has seven points in 14 games this season.

"We've always known that (Zulinick) has had very good 'mitts' if you will, and can do some things offensively," Eaves said. "I think what's elevated his game, though, is his ability to go in and work and get the puck and create space for himself. He's done a nice job in that area -- I think he's buying into that. And that's going to take his game to another level."

Freshmen Ryan Wagner and Matt Ustaski also played well in the series finale vs. Michigan Tech. That line, which also features senior Brad Navin, was a consistent threat in the offensive zone on Saturday and will be looking to carry that over against the Terriers.

Wisconsin defense and goaltenders

Any talk about Wisconsin's back-end has to start with the performance Joel Rumpel put on Saturday night. It was a statement game one night after the senior was pulled after giving up three goals in the first 10 minutes of Friday's game.

"A lot of (the shots) were from the perimeter, but he made some huge saves in amongst those 47 shots," Eaves said. "We've talked about it all year, our formula to find a way to win with a young group is we need a stalwart performance from Joel (Rumpel), and we need to find a way to have our special teams contribute."

Another freshman starting to come into his own lately is Jack Dougherty. After being one of the final cuts from the U.S. World Junior team, Dougherty played with a chip on his shoulder in the Tech series and was one of the Badgers' best players.

"If he wasn't our leader in hits, he was right up there," Eaves said. "But, even more than that, he had poise and confidence with the puck -- he made some really nice plays.

"You could tell he wasn't a freshman anymore -- he played like an upperclassman. That's the kind of thing we're going to need from Jack as we move forward in the second half."

Boston University scouting report

Any talk about Boston University has to start with Eichel, who is a special talent, and is on pace to become the first freshman to lead the country in scoring since Paul Kariya of Maine in 1992-93.

"He's got a very nice package of skills," Eaves said. "First of all he's over six-foot, he's close to 200 pounds. Some of our guys have been in the weight room with him and they say he's a freak.

"He's got a great reach, he moves extremely well, he sees the ice and he has skills. It's a complete package, and one of the reasons why he's doing well in the league."

BU's top line, which Eichel centers, also features a pair of talented wingers in Danny O'Regan, who leads the team with 12 goals, and Ahti Oksanen.

The Terriers are especially strong down the middle, which is going to be the biggest challenge for the Badgers. In addition to Eichel, BU has talented veteran centers Cason Hohmann and Matt Lane on its second and third units.

Boston University also features a talented, mobile blueline that is headlined by junior Matt Grzelcyz, a third-round NHL Draft pick of the Boston Bruins. Freshmen Brandon Hickey and Brandon Fortunato are also big pieces for the Terriers and can provide offense from the back end.

In goal, junior Matt O'Connor has played as well as anyone in the nation this season. The 6'6 netminder from Toronto is 10-2-2 this year with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.

By the numbers

WISCONSIN BOSTON UNIVERSITY
RECORD
2-11-1 (0-2-0-0 Big Ten)
11-3-3 (7-1-2 Hockey East)
SCORING OFFENSE
1.71/gm
3.35/gm
SCORING DEFENSE
3.50/gm
1.88/gm
POWER PLAY
12.20% 18.3%
PENALTY KILL
73.50%
87.1%
PAIRWISE RANKING
No. 56
No. 8
RPI
No. 56
No. 8
KRACH
No. 52
No. 9
AVG. HEIGHT/WEIGHT
5'11.89, 187.59 pounds 6'0.44, 184.96 pounds
AVG. AGE
21 years, 1 months
20 years, 7 months

Coverage

Both games can be seen on the Wisconsin Channel.

Both games will stream for free on BTN2Go.com.

As always, Brian Posick will call the games on the radio this weekend. You can find his call on WIBA 1310 and also on the Badger Radio Network.

Polls

Wisconsin is not ranked.

Boston University is ranked No. 2 in both the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.

Injuries

None.

Last meeting

Wisconsin out-shot BU, 43-26, last season, but the Terriers came out on top on the scoreboard, 7-3.

Fun fact

The Badgers have played against (or will soon) all four teams that have been ranked No. 1 this season (North Dakota, Michigan Tech, Minnesota and Boston University).

Projected lineup

Joseph LaBate - Adam Rockwood - Grant Besse
Morgan Zulinick - Cameron Hughes - Jedd Soleway
Matt Ustaski - Ryan Wagner - Brad Navin
Aidan Cavallini - Matt Paape - Corbin McGuire

Kevin Schulze - Jake Linhart
Eddie Wittchow - Jack Dougherty
Tim Davison - Chase Drake

Joel Rumpel - Landon Peterson

Badger Hockey Digest

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