Wisconsin freshman Justin Schultz has provided scoring and steady play in the Badgers\’ D-zone.[/media-credit]

The Wisconsin men’s hockey team announced the seven student athlete recruits committed to UW will most likely sign early in the signing period. Although none of the signees were much of a surprise, UW head coach Mike Eaves was enthusiastic about the class as a whole.

Among the recruits are forwards Jefferson Dahl, Sean Little, Tyler Barnes and Michael Mersch. The Badgers also committed defensemen Chase Drake and Frankie Simonelli.

Brother of current Badger defenseman Eric Little, Eaves was quick to compare Sean to a different current UW player.

“Sean Little will be an energetic, physical force for us. If you want to make a comparison, we see him as someone like Ben Grotting — great on the forecheck and great energy from his physical play,” he said.

Matching up with legends

Wisconsin (7-4-1) will take part in the 17th annual College Hockey Showcase this weekend where Eaves’ squad will face off against teams headed by two highly experienced coaches in Rick Comley for Michigan State and Red Berenson for Michigan. First, the Badgers head to East Lansing, Mich., Friday to face the No. 6 Spartans (9-3-2), and then they will take on No. 15 Michigan (5-7) in Ann Arbor Saturday.

Even with 150 wins of his own, Eaves is impressed by how long both Berenson and Comley have remained current with the game and their ability to constantly adjust their styles of coaching.

“It is amazing,” Eaves said. “It amazes me as to the longevity and how they have done things over their career to keep their interest and energy up. It was fun to talk to them because Red is going to be 70 — think about it. Not having talked with him — and having talked with people around him — it’s a fact that he loves being around the game and loves being around the kids.”

While being a couple of decades ahead of Eaves in experience may appear to make Comley and Berenson outdated, Eaves affirmed these coaches’ endurance and ability to adapt has been their greatest achievement in contributing to the growth of the game.

“On a personal level, having coached over 25 years, I’ve been in the game a while, but not at the same level or doing the same type of thing. The thing is — with those gentlemen I just mentioned a moment ago — is the fact they have changed.

“They’ve changed the way they play, they’ve changed the way they recruit, they’ve been adaptable to the times, and I think that’s why they’re still doing what they’re doing — still enjoying what they’re doing — and I think it’s a lesson for life: if we don’t adapt and change as we grow older, then life becomes a little bit of a bugaboo and we fight it rather than enjoy it,” Eaves continued.

Freshmen Coming Through In the Clutch

After splitting a two-game series with St. Cloud State this past weekend, Eaves praised freshmen defensemen John Ramage and Justin Schultz on their performances Saturday and on their growth over the course of the season.

“I would have to say the young freshmen — both Ramage and Schultz — have adapted to the college game faster than we anticipated,” Eaves said. “They don’t play like first-semester freshmen right now.”

Thus far, Ramage has scored two goals and three assists for the team. He also won gold for the USA National Team Development Program 2008 at the IIHF World Under-18 Championships before skating for Eaves as a Badger.

Schultz has recorded one goal and four assists so far this season and was named Interior Conference’s top defenseman back-to-back years for the British Columbia Hockey League in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Eaves deemed these skaters’ improvement this season as the most evident among all his players and saw their contribution to successfully kill nine, almost-consecutive minutes of Huskies’ power plays as the turning point for the Badgers in Saturday’s game.

“Without question, [Saturday’s game’s turning point] was the five-minute kill,” Eaves said. “I think that what it did for us was give us energy, and on the other side of the coin, it took energy away from them.”