Mike Eaves and the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team have a WCHA standings board in the locker room that they will casually glance at as they walk by.
Leading up to this weekend’s series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Badgers will see themselves sitting at third in the conference, three points ahead of fourth-place Minnesota. Needless to say, there will be plenty of motivation to go around.
“Every day, the boys walk in the locker room, and there’s that standings board there. They walk right by it,” Eaves said at his press conference Monday. “It doesn’t have to be very long that you walk by it but you know where you stand. So lots at stake. It’ll be two storms coming together on Friday and Saturday night, for sure.”
Minnesota is a team that has struggled as of late. Once the No. 1-ranked team in the country, the Gophers have been swept in two of their past three series, including this past weekend against Minnesota State.
That could intensify the upcoming series even more, as if any added motivation was needed.
“A wounded animal is always a scary thing. You don’t want to get somebody who’s backed into a corner,” Eaves said of the Gophers. “They’re going to be disappointed with the way the weekend turned out, and the coaches are going to be there and they’ll have their attention because of the fact that they did lose a couple. They’ll be all fired up, which will just add more fuel to this weekend.”
Against the Gophers, the Badgers will be up against goaltender Alex Kangas. Having just faced Colorado College’s Richard Bachman and Minnesota Duluth’s Alex Stalock, Kangas is just the next in a long line of tough WCHA goalies.
“You look at the numbers of all the goaltenders around, and they’re pretty decent,” Eaves said. “It’s just another quality goaltender. The formula is pretty much the same: Let’s get pucks and bodies at the net.”
Gorowsky looks for redemption
Senior forward Tom Gorowsky’s miss on an empty net in Saturday’s 1-0 loss may have been a tough pill to swallow for the Badgers after the game, but Eaves expects Gorowsky to rebound from the ill effects.
“He’s going to take that and use that as motivation this week to make sure that he’s ready,” Eaves said.
But Gorowsky’s coach wasn’t about to pin the loss on the missed shot.
“We went and looked at the video, and by our count we outchanced them pretty well,” Eaves said. “We didn’t break the [Alex] Stalock wall. We didn’t get to second pucks. We had shots on the scoring area that could produce rebounds but we didn’t get there well enough. … They capitalized on the mistake that we made, and that was the difference in the game.”
From the infirmary
Sophomore defenseman Brendan Smith has missed the past six games with a broken wrist, and Eaves expects him to miss two more this weekend against Minnesota.
It’s possible, though, that Smith could return against Denver at home, since the Badgers have a weekend off following the series against the Gophers.
“It’s going to be after the bye,” Eaves said. “I think if we played the bye week that might be a chance, but where he is right now he’s just starting to get range of motion. I sure wish we had him this weekend.”
Junior forward Aaron Bendickson was banged up in Friday night’s game against Minnesota Duluth and did not play Saturday. His status for the weekend is still not certain, and he’ll be evaluated early this week.
“He’s been getting therapy,” Eaves said. “We’ll know a little more today when he goes on the ice.”