Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Postseason mess shakes up WCHA

[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]MH-099-JS[/media-credit]With just two weekends remaining in the regular season, the WCHA standings are a complete mess.

UW men's hockey coach Mike Eaves found this out when he tried to break down all the different playoff scenarios for his resurgent Wisconsin team, which just hopped back into the rankings at No. 19 following a series win over No. 4 St. Cloud State at the Kohl Center.

"I started to [look at the standings], and … I just let it go because there were so many permutations," Eaves said. "I just thought I would drive myself crazy, so I started working on today's practice."


Eaves joked with reporters at his Monday press conference that it would take somebody from the UW computer sciences department to figure out this muddled playoff race.

This notion isn't so far from the truth, really.

Minnesota (37 points) needs one more win to lock up the MacNaughton Cup as regular season champions of the WCHA. But after the Golden Gophers follows a tight battle in which six points separate five teams.

Wisconsin (14-15-3, 11-11-2 WCHA) is at the bottom of that totem pole, with 24 points and sixth place in the conference. But the next two weeks offer series with Minnesota versus St. Cloud State, third-place Denver against fourth-place Colorado College, and fifth-place North Dakota against Denver and then St. Cloud State.

Since the Badgers have only two series against losing teams left, Eaves hopes his team can recognize the opportunity ahead and take advantage of these final four games.

"Now it's fun," Eaves said. "I mean, now you look at the standings and what's going on, [teams] are playing quality [teams], and it's going to be a dogfight right down to that last Saturday."

But Eaves maintains his players aren't doing any scoreboard watching.

"We've always been a group that has talked about controlling what we can," Eaves said.

"The next game is that control factor for us, and that will be our task."

Rip your face-off

The Badgers, according to Eaves, are as confident as they've been all season long, with everybody back healthy and in the midst of a season-long four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1).

But it's the little things that define teams, and Wisconsin has shown strides in one of those categories: face-offs.

"Particularly over this last weekend, there were big numbers for us," Eaves said. "But it's something that if you watch us practice, we work on it every Thursday; and I think over the course of the year, you hope that the guys' technique and confidence [have improved]."

In their last game — a 2-2 tie against St. Cloud State — the Badgers won 43 face-offs and lost 24 to the Huskies. Eaves attributes this not just to the efforts of the centers, but also to the men behind them.

"A lot of times, it's not just the center icemen, but it's the awareness of the people that are on the hash marks, the defensemen, the wingers," Eaves said. "They're all out on 50/50 pucks, and if we have better awareness and have a better jump, then we have puck possession."

Eaves initially tabbed senior Jake Dowell as his best face-off man, but added that weekly competitions in practice have shown a few worthy candidates.

"It's tough to win back-to-back weeks," Eaves said. "I think Ben Street has gotten a lot better, Andrew Joudrey, even some other guys, you know, Tommy Gorowsky is pretty good on face-offs."

But not every UW winger is like Gorowsky, a fourth-line winger.

"It's real interesting when a winger will sometimes come in there, like Jack Skille, and he'll say, 'Well, let me try some of these', and they just get tooled," Eaves said. "They don't appreciate how difficult it is. There's (an) art and there's (a) science to doing it right."

Helping hand

Senior winger Ross Carlson — the Badgers' active leading point-scorer — is known for his quick shot and gritty play.

His ability to set up the play may be somewhat overlooked as a result, but Carlson was a major contributor to Wisconsin's past two home weekends without putting a single puck past the opposing goaltenders. Carlson has tallied six helpers in his last four games, and picked up at least one assist in each of those four contests.

"There are times when you need to shoot the puck because that's what's being presented to you, and other times that you need to pass because they're taking away the shot," Eaves said. "It has seemed lately that he's been in that position to see what's in front of him, he can read and react and make the proper plays."

Carlson is the team's second-leading active goal scorer on the power play, with 14 goals (Dowell has 17). But lately, Carlson has been the set-up man on the power play, as his last four assists have all come with the man advantage.

"Any way that he can get on the score sheet by doing something like that," Eaves said. "It's a good thing for us."

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