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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Wisconsin travels to St. Cloud State for WCHA’s

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When the Wisconsin men?s hockey team travels to St. Cloud
State this weekend for the first round of the WCHA playoffs, they won?t be
playing in the venue they had hoped for. After failing to secure home ice
advantage in the tournament?s first round, the Badgers must win on the road to
advance to the Final Five in St. Paul.

?I think this team believes in itself and the things that it
can do,? head coach Mike Eaves said in a press conference Monday. ?We have an
opportunity to go on the road and get that done. That?s our mindset.?

It will be a familiar setting when Eaves? squad takes on the
Huskies, as the two teams met just two weeks ago. In their last series of the
regular season, the Badgers managed to pick up just two points, winning 2-1
Friday but losing 3-2 Saturday.

Eaves believes having just played St. Cloud State will be
advantageous to his players, as they still have the loss in the back of their
minds.

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?We?ll do the same thing we did, from walkthroughs to
repetitions,? Eaves said. ?The big thing about having just played them is the
fact that we?ve seen it live. And unless they make some drastic changes,
although I don?t know why they would, hopefully we?ll be able to better handle
it.?

The Badger coach also said he doesn?t anticipate much of a
difference in intensity between this weekend?s series and the last time the
teams met.

?I think there are a lot of teams in the WCHA that have been
playing, in their minds, playoff hockey for a long time,? Eaves said. ?We?re one
of them, so I don?t think anything changes that way. We just have to prepare as
we?ve been preparing.?

Wisconsin is still not guaranteed a spot in the NCAA
tournament, as they sit on the bubble of the PairWise rankings. Eaves knows
what needs to be done to strengthen his team?s cast at a postseason berth and
said the players understand what?s at stake as well.

?I?ve heard the guys talking about that,? Eaves said. ?I
think they?re very much aware of that, so that?s a good thing. I think the way
that we practiced last week, they wanted to stay sharp. And we practiced well
because of that fact.?

 

Week off a good thing

Often teams coming off a bye week ? as the Badgers will be
against the Huskies ? exhibit rust after not competing for two weeks. But Eaves
said the week off allowed his players to rest up and prepare themselves
physically for the upcoming series.

?I?m one to believe that a week off benefits us. I like the
fact that we get to have quality repetitions,? Eaves said. ?After playing 10 weeks
consecutively, I think it was good for us to have that rest as a time to
recover and a time to re-energize. I thought we did that, and ? based on the
energy we saw on the ice last week and the focus ? I think we accomplished the
things that we wanted to do.?

In the stretch of the 10 consecutive weeks Wisconsin has
played, they have gone 8-7-5, including 1-1 against St. Cloud. The two teams
did face each other in Madison before the break, with UW sweeping the series.

 

Smith a no-go

Freshman defenseman Brendan Smith, who has not played in two
months because of a back injury, will likely not suit up this weekend,
according to Eaves.

?Unless we run into illness or injury this weekend or along
the course of this week, I don?t think that he will play this weekend,? Eaves
said. ?I think that still, watching him practice, looking at his conditioning
level, we still have a ways to go.?

Fellow freshman Craig Johnson has seen some increased
playing time on the blue line in Smith?s absence, but two weeks ago against the
Huskies, Eaves moved senior Josh Engel from forward to defense. 

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