Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Young Badgers talented bunch

[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]MH-vs-Minnesota-State-036-J[/media-credit]With nine incoming freshmen on Wisconsin men's hockey team roster, head coach Mike Eaves knows his team will have plenty of room to grow early in the 2007-08 season.

"[There are] a lot of unknowns about our group of young people," Eaves said at a press conference Monday. "I think as people look at our roster, they'll note how young we are. They'll also note that there's some talent there, and we'll just have to see where this young talent takes us and how it mixes with the upperclassmen."

The talent Eaves talked about Monday includes the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation, highlighted by forward Kyle Turris and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Brendan Smith.


Turris was taken third overall in the NHL draft by Phoenix, and McDonagh and Smith were chosen 12th and 13th overall, respectively.

Skill alone won't win games for the Badgers, however, as Eaves stressed the difference in competition at the collegiate level.

"One thing for sure, no matter how talented you are coming in, these young men are playing at a different level," Eaves said. "I think it's going to take time for them to adapt. That's what history tells us."

In college hockey, programs often don't have time to rebuild. Players often leave early for the NHL, something Wisconsin has plenty of familiarity with in recent memory. Eaves said this doesn't affect the team's strategy in the way it is going about the season and likened his freshmen to previous young Badger talent.

"I don't think it changes our approach at all, the fact that they're leaving earlier," Eaves said. "You take a look back as recent as Joe Pavelski. Joe had some pretty good numbers, but he had some highs and lows in that first semester. Second semester, we saw a more consistent Joe Pavelski, and I think that's the path that the young people we have right now are going to take."

Eaves said that even the high-profile arrivals of Turris and McDonagh will take time to adapt to the college game.

"All those young freshmen have some real God-given abilities that we can't teach," Eaves said. "The thing about this class coming in is that as good of hockey players as they are, they're even better people. I think that will help the maturity and their ability to hopefully grow and get used to college hockey at a faster rate."

Big skates to fill

With the departure of goalie Brian Elliott, the main goaltending duties are now in the hands of junior Shane Connelly, who spent two years as Elliott's backup. He has played in 16 games for the Badgers, posting a 7-6-2 mark and a 1.97 goals against average.

"I think if you talk to [Shane's] teammates, they will tell you that Shane is right where Brian was two years ago," Eaves said. "Brian's teammates knew that he was a good goaltender, and I think Shane's teammates know he's a good goaltender. Now it's his turn to stand under the spotlight and see how far he can grow with that."

Connelly is no stranger to tough situations. He posted a shutout in the team's win against eventual National Champion Michigan State in the College Hockey Showcase and was the winning goalie in the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic and Lambeau Field in 2006.

"He's had some big games," Eaves said. "He's worked through some tough times. It's his time now, and he's ready for it."

Tough test early

Wisconsin takes to the road this weekend and will face a ranked opponent in its first game of the season as it takes on No. 8 Notre Dame in the Lefty McFadden Invite.

Like Wisconsin, Notre Dame is a young team — the Irish have seven freshmen on the roster as well as eight sophomores.

Eaves sees similarities between his squad and the Fighting Irish.

"Notre Dame's pretty young too," Eaves said. "If you have a veteran team coming back, that's where you have somewhat of an advantage over the year because of the fact that you've had more repetitions. Pretty much everybody's in the same boat."

The two will meet Friday at 4 p.m. at the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio.

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