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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hockey prepares for College Hockey Showcase

The Wisconsin men’s hockey team must be hoping that history won’t set a binding precedent when they travel to Michigan this weekend for the annual College Hockey Showcase.

The Badgers (6-4, 4-2 WCHA), who have had more splits this season than a professional bowler, are fresh off a convincing 5-0 victory over Michigan Tech last Saturday, but are still in danger of showing remnants of their embarrassing 1-0 loss to the Huskies the night before.

In a strikingly uncanny situation, UW heads into this weekend’s holiday tournament for the second straight year just two games above .500 and again plagued by inconsistency,

Last year, the Badgers played host to Michigan on Thanksgiving and then Michigan State a few days later, but failed to garner a win in either contest, losing both games, 3-2 and 6-2 respectively.

This time around, however, the Badgers hope things will be different.

Facing tough odds, Wisconsin will try to reverse last year’s fortunes starting Friday, as the team heads to East Lansing to take on Michigan State before rerouting to Ann Arbor to compete against the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday.

“We have not historically done well in this tournament,” UW head coach Jeff Sauer said. “It’s not that we’ve chosen not to emphasize it, it’s just that we haven’t experienced a lot of success.”

Wisconsin must prepare for a variety of things this weekend, chief among them the prospect of facing two very good teams on two consecutive days. After taking yesterday off to rest, a potential problem is compounded by the fact that Wisconsin will be forced to prepare for each team’s differing styles of play in just three days.

“Michigan and Michigan State are traditionally completely different teams,” Sauer said. “Michigan State is very defensive-oriented. Michigan will be a run-and-gun [team]. So it’s two completely different atmospheres.”

The Spartans (8-2-1, 7-2-1 CCHA), under the direction of college hockey’s all-time winningest head coach, Ron Mason, stand poised to three-peat as conference champions again this year. Ranked No. 4 in the U.S. College Hockey Organization poll and No. 5 in the nation by USA Today, Michigan State features a trapping style of defense and last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner, Ryan Miller, at goalie.

The Badgers remember Miller all too well from last year’s crushing, season-ending 5-1 loss to the Spartans in the finals of the NCAA West Regional.

Further adding to the Badgers’ woes will be a lineup faced with key deficiencies on its front line. Missing from the action against Michigan State will be senior assistant captain and center Kent Davyduke, who will be serving a mandatory one-game suspension for his part in a fight last Saturday against Michigan Tech.

Also, forward Rene Bourque continues to nurse a shoulder injury but will play.

The unfortunate loss of Davyduke will be minimized against the Spartans, however, due to persistent Michigan State defense that will allow very few scoring chances anyway. And even with all other things considered, Sauer believes that it will be that Spartan defense that will play right into UW’s favor.

“The way to beat them is to get ahead of them by one or two goals, ’cause they never change their system,” Sauer said, while adding that a replacement for Davyduke hasn’t been chosen yet. “[Michigan State] relies heavily on their goaltender, and you don’t get a lot of shots on him. It’s a completely professional trap, tie-down defensive system. It’s not fun to watch, but they have success with it.”

Against Michigan (9-3-2, 5-4-2 CCHA), Wisconsin will again be presented with a chance to upend a quick, up-tempo team. The Wolverines, ranked No. 12 in both college hockey polls, potentially pose even a greater risk for the Badgers by playing a similar style to that of Boston College and Minnesota, a style that has proven to give the Badgers difficulty.

That important job will be up to the Wisconsin defense, led by junior goaltender Scott Kabotoff, who was recently named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row.

Yet, any tribulations that might bother the Badgers this weekend as they look to avenge history could be offset by another, overlooked factor.

“I think we’re better as a team than when we played [Michigan State] last spring,” Sauer said. “Team-wise, we have a lot more depth, and we’re playing better as a team.”

History will be the judge of that.

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