In many ways, the 2009-10 Wisconsin men’s hockey squad is shaping up to look a lot like that of 2005-06, when the Badgers last won the national championship.
Currently the Wisconsin Badgers have plenty of on-ice experience and excellent depth, something that was essential to the 2006 NCAA Tournament Championship victory.
Just don’t expect head coach Mike Eaves to tell you that.
When asked about whether or not it was fair to compare his current team to his national champion squad, Eaves focused more on what it takes to win a championship.
“This team has depth as that team [did],” Eaves said in his Monday press conference. “I think anytime you win a championship, one of the main ingredients for those championship teams is depth. The ability to not just lean on one person but having some kind of ability all through your lineup and guys playing to their roles.”
While he wouldn’t come right out and say it, Eaves’ position-by-position comparison of his current squad to the 2005-06 team demonstrates that the Badgers certainly have the potential to replicate that national title run.
Eaves was happy to have two young goalies playing well as opposed to just one in 2005-06, and believed his current lineup actually had more offensive ability in its defensemen than the 2006 championship squad.
Regarding the team’s forwards, he thought they were most like the 2006 champions.
“Up front, I think this group is very similar,” Eaves said. “There are guys that have very high-end offensive ability, but we (also) have guys that are playing well without the puck and chipping in as that group of forwards did. In that aspect, our forwards may be more similar to that ’06 team.”
Following the team’s most successful weekend of the season so far, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team had even more good news Monday.
After beating then-No. 1 Denver in a 4-3 thriller Saturday to take three of four points in the series against the Pioneers, the Badgers earned a higher national ranking in both polls this week. With only top-ranked Miami ahead, Wisconsin now ranks No. 2 in the nation with six series and a single game against Michigan remaining in the regular season.
As any good Wisconsin coach would, however, Eaves insisted his team’s focus is entirely on the next series, even with the expectations that come with a No. 2 national ranking and any comparisons to the Badgers’ 2005-06 squad.
“Every week it seems to be a groundhog week in terms of the same type of mindset,” Eaves said. “Trying to put points on the board and ‘W’s’ and get ready for the next game. That’s our task again this week.”
With only 12 days remaining until the Camp Randall Hockey Classic on Feb. 6, this weekend also marked the beginning of the construction of the ice rink at the stadium. Media were briefed on the progress of the construction for the first time Monday.
The progress of the ice rink also can be viewed online via webcam installed to provide a live look to Wisconsin hockey fans.
According to Eaves, he checked the webcam Monday before the press conference.
“I went online this morning,” he said. “I heard the trucks were rolling in and we’ve got the time-lapse camera going on there so I can see the Styrofoam going down.”
Over the weekend, as his team battled with the top-ranked Pioneers, Eaves was a bit concerned about the conditions outside the arena.
“I was kind of worried this weekend (when) we were getting rain,” Eaves added. “I said, ‘that’s not going to be good weather to put the rink up,’ but this week it’s supposed to get pretty cold at the end of the week. So somebody said that will make them work faster and the ice will get built even quicker. So that’s a good thing.”
Wisconsin last played an outdoor game on Feb. 11, 2006 — just 56 days before winning the national title at the Bradley Center.