All year, UW hockey head coach Mike Eaves has waxed philosophical about his team’s introspective search for a persona. It appears that search is over.
After yet another comeback win in Wednesday night’s exhibition match against the Latvian team Riga 2000 unofficially extended the Badgers’ nation-high unbeaten streak to a baker’s dozen, Eaves seemed resigned to the fact that he would be fretting through quite a few more heart-wrenching matches this year.
“That seems to be the personality of this team,” said Eaves of the team’s come-from-behind attitude. “They find ways to get things done, even when they’re not at their best.”
In the first half of the 2003-2004 season, that indomitable spirit has raised eyebrows across the country. The Badgers, picked in the preseason to finish seventh in their conference, have worked their way into national contention and are currently ranked seventh in the nation.
Along the way, UW has put up impressive showings against many of college hockey’s best teams. Over Thanksgiving weekend at the College Hockey Showcase, the Badgers beat No. 9-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor in what senior captain Dan Boeser called the most satisfying win of his hockey career.
The Badgers also took three of four points from a Minnesota team that came into Madison sporting hardware from two consecutive national championships and a preseason No. 1 ranking that hinted at a possible third.
Other impressive showings include a third-period victory at No. 10-ranked Denver last weekend and a pair of ties against fourth-ranked Colorado College at home. The only losses the Badgers have suffered on their way to their 9-3-4 have come against a Maine team that is ranked No. 3 in the nation and a St. Cloud State team that is ranked No. 6.
Plenty of obstacles stand in the Badgers’ path for the second half of this season. A tough 10-game stretch between Jan. 17 and Feb. 21 includes rematches with Colorado College and Minnesota on the road and another shot at St. Cloud State at home. The Badgers get a shot at the No. 1 team in the country when North Dakota comes to town on the weekend of Feb. 7.