Amid recent controversies among the Badger men’s hockey team, it’s probably difficult for many to remember that the team still has a season to finish and playoffs for which to contend.
The Brad Winchester and Alex Leavitt fiascoes have remained on “don’t ask” status throughout the entire week as Wisconsin heads for a series against Michigan Tech Friday and Saturday.
The staff announced Thursday that neither Winchester nor Leavitt would be joining the team this weekend. However, Winchester remains in good standing with the team.
“Brad Winchester is a fine young person and no one is as disappointed as Brad with the incident of last week,” head coach Mike Eaves said in a statement posted to UWBadgers.com. “He made a poor decision last week, but over the four years of his career he has shown good character. Brad will work through this situation, and our hockey team will support him throughout the process.”
But the rest of the Badgers, who need a win against the Michigan Tech Huskies to secure a decent playoff seeding, have preferred to focus on their games.
“We’ve been working a lot with on-ice focus in practice this week,” sophomore goaltender Bernd Bruckler said. “Our communication on the ice is going to be the key to our success.”
Thus far, both teams have struggled this season. The Badgers are in ninth place with 14 points, while the Huskies are just ahead of them, in eighth place with 15 points.
However, the Badgers have an edge in the fact that they are riding the momentum of last week’s victory and tie against St. Cloud State. Michigan Tech, on the other hand, is feeling the pressure, having dropped two games to the Denver Pioneers last weekend. Wisconsin has also dominated recent matchups between the two teams, going 11-1 since October 1999.
Although Bruckler had a great series in St. Cloud, stopping a combined 37 of 42 shots, he isn’t ready to take it easy this weekend.
“We really need to step it up against Michigan Tech,” Bruckler said. “This is going to be a tough series, and everyone is going to have to play their best games.”
According to defenseman Dan Boeser, the solution to stopping Michigan Tech’s offense is zone control.
“We just have to keep our defense simple,” he said. “We can’t get too far out of our zone by trying anything fancy.”
This is going to be an interesting series in the respect that the venues are split. Friday night’s game is in Houghton, Michigan at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. After Friday’s game, both teams will head to Green Bay to play at the Resch Center, home of the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers.
The Green Bay trip is a homecoming for players on both teams. Badger players Boeser, John Eichelberger, Adam Burish, and A.J. Degenhardt all played junior hockey for the Gamblers. Michigan Tech captain Brett Engelhardt is also a Gambler alumnus.
“It should be fun to play against a former teammate,” said Boeser. “I’ll also be seeing a lot of other people I knew in Green Bay, like my housing family and a lot of friends.”
Englehardt is Tech’s hottest player, scoring two goals and tallying an assist in its series against Denver last weekend. In the last three games he has scored four goals and leads the team for the season with 16.
The Friday-night game in Michigan will be senior night for the Huskies, who are graduating three seniors this year. Defenseman Greg Amadio, center Chris Durno and right-winger Chuck Fabry will all play in their last true Michigan Tech home game.
The Saturday-night match-up against Tech will represent the third time in the school’s history that the Huskies have ventured into Wisconsin for a home game. The tradition started in 1988 and continued in 1989 before suffering a 13-year absence.