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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Erickson: Schutlz, Zengerle end scoring drought, may not be enough 

Friday night – as the Wisconsin men’s hockey team was blanked for the first time at home this season in a 3-0 decision against No. 10 Denver – I had the unsettling feeling I would soon have to eat my own words.

Sitting next to former Heralder Ben Worgull in the press box, witnessing the frustration on the Badgers’ bench only a few levels below, Worgull leaned over and remarked, “Has Justin Schultz already gone pro”?

The sarcastic one-liner could not have summed up Schultz‘s second half of the season in a more perfect way.


Schultz leads the team with 13 goals, but only four of those goals have come in the second half of the season. While he’s managed eight assists in that span of time – for a season total of 27 – Schultz hasn’t made a mark on the stat sheet in seven of the Badgers’ 12 games since the break.

Now it isn’t extremely unusual for most players to go stretches at a time without scoring, but for a player like Schultz, it’s downright weird.

Only a few months ago he led the nation in points alongside sophomore Mark Zengerle (who we’ll come back to later). While his 40 points this season are impressive for a defenseman and earn him the No. 9 standing nationally, he was easily on pace to break his 47 points from a year ago headed into the break – something I boldly predicted he would do. With four games left in the season, he’ll have to average at least two points a game to beat last year’s mark by a single point.

Similarly, Zengerle, who leads the Badgers with 41 points, went four games straight without posting a single point before Saturday night. There are only two other games this season when he hasn’t scored: the season-opener and the 3-0 shutout at Minnesota State on Jan. 14 that snapped his 20-game point streak.

In a strange phenomenon that has epitomized the Badgers second half, Wisconsin’s two Hobey Baker hopefuls found themselves in a severe scoring drought, and I was starting to question whether I had counted my chickens too soon.

Only a few weeks prior I had heralded Schultz‘s chances for a successful run at the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. After the first series back from break he looked more on top of his game than he ever has been. But then he had a rare weekend off the stat sheet, which soon became a trend.

Then Zengerle seemed to be following in Schultz‘s lead, and the Badgers faced a five-game losing streak.

The duo seemed to disappear and the offensive threat they carry became a faint memory.

Waiting in the Kohl Center pressroom Friday night, I couldn’t help but to continually ponder over this strange disappearance, but the frustration that was emanating from these two – specifically Zengerle – could not have been more palpable.

Throughout their disappearance from the box score, head coach Mike Eaves has addressed the need for them to find a way to make big plays and get back on the score card, but after Friday night, he simply wanted them to relax.

And that’s exactly what they did.

My fears subsided, only slightly, as the Badgers’ starting centerman put the Badgers back on the board and scored his first goal since hosting Alaska-Anchorage on Jan. 20.

By his reaction, it was clear all frustration and worry of needing to score had melted away as did a classic bow-and-arrow celebration.

“I don’t think I tried to do as much,” Zengerle said. “[Friday] night I tried to do a little too much; skating it in, I was losing it. Tonight I just tried to play [and do] what I was doing back my 20-game streak when I just tried to play my game and it worked out.”

With just over five minutes left in the third, the Badgers had a comfortable 4-2 lead and were headed on the power play. So far they had been 0-7 with the man advantage throughout the series.

That’s when Schultz finally broke his unwanted streak. From the point, the junior defenseman ripped one on net and DU sophomore goaltender Sam Brittain just couldn’t get a pad on it.

While the duo can’t completely right the season, they’ve put themselves back on the map as they hold onto those No. 7 and 9 spots in the nation in points.

Both Zengerle and Schultz posted a goal and an assist and showed that the lowly 11th place team still has some fight, taking down a team that is in contention for the conference title and giving its home crowd one final game to get stoked about.

After the game ended, Schultz stayed out and lingered at center ice taking it all in – the band, the fans, everything. Zengerle went and gave him a hug and they headed into the locker room.

“I was just kind of taking it in, who knows, this could be my last time playing here,” Schultz said. “I’m not saying it is but just kind of taking it in just in case I never get to play here again.”

Kelly is a junior majoring in journalism. Think Schultz and Zengerle can still help UW make something more of this season? Send her a Tweet @kellymerickson.

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