Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s Hockey: As history is celebrated, a new chapter begins

Optimism surrounds 75th season of men’s hockey
Anthony Winker

When fans go to the Kohl Center this year for a men’s hockey game, they won’t see the University of Wisconsin’s trademark “Motion W” out there. There’s a new logo for this season, celebrating 75 seasons of UW hockey, and it has six stars on it one for each of the Badgers’ six national titles. But for recent fans of this team, those titles feel like ages ago.

That’s why UW Director of Athletics Chris McIntosh, who’s been busy in his short tenure so far, decided to make the choice to fire Tony Granato after seven tumultuous years. In his place comes Mike Hastings, who was convinced by McIntosh to leave his comfy gig at Minnesota State University, Mankato for a shot at glory in Madison.

The pedigree that Hastings brings from Mankato is impressive — six straight regular season conference titles that goes through last season, thrice the winner of the NCAA’s Coach of the Year, eight NCAA Tournament appearances and two Frozen Four berths, the most recent of which came in 2022.


Now, his job is to replicate the same success in Madison, a place starving for some men’s hockey success. With no titles since 2006, Hastings preached the process, including one word over and over.

“Really just getting habits down, and what we want our dailies to be so that our days turn into weeks, a week into a month,” Hastings said. “So really just putting expectations out there and showing what we’re looking for.”

Why does Camp Randall’s student section struggle to fill on game day?

“Dailies” was the theme word throughout, with both UW forward Mathieu De St. Phalle and defenseman Mike Vorlicky echoing the same statement.

De St. Phalle emphasized the idea of heart and discipline as program staples at the moment. Doing actions with a purpose is key for the team’s future success.

“I think we’re grasping and really starting to take ownership in practice and following dailies and focusing on day in and day out what we’re doing right to prepare for that first game,” Vorlicky said.

New faces hoping to lead the charge

With a new coach comes lots of predictable change. The Badgers brought in 12 new players of the 26 on the roster — four transfers, three from Minnesota State and an eight-person recruiting class, almost all of which who committed when Granato was here.

The three Minnesota State transfers — Simon Tassy, Christian Fitzgerald and David Silye — combined for 40 goals and 33 assists last season for the Mavericks. Silye alone scored 23 goals and added 16 assists en route to winning 2023 Central Collegiate Hockey Association Forward of the Year. All three are welcome additions to a UW lineup in desperate need of scoring with only 2.6 GPG last season.

The freshman class is deep and talented as well, especially up front. William Whitelaw, Quinn Finley and Sawyer Scholl look to factor in right away in the middle-six, with a top line of Cruz Lucius, Silye and De St. Phalle seemingly locked in for now.

The back end was in need of an infusion of talent with a couple of key departures from last season, namely the first-round draft pick Corson Ceulemans, who scored 23 points last season. They’ll look to freshmen in these spots too. Joining the Badgers are Joe Palodichuk, Zach Schulz and Brady Cleveland. Palodichuk is an athlete who could get some looks in the top-4 early on, with a lot of production to replace on the back end.

Strength is up front

As mentioned earlier, a major issue for UW in the past has been scoring goals. But, this year, the forward group looks as good as in recent memory, a statement Hastings agrees with.

“I like our forward group,” Hastings said. “We’ve had a lot of guys who’ve come back. I think between Tony and the previous staff along with our staff getting involved, we’ve got guys up front that I’m really excited about.”

The Badgers return a lot of production from last season which includes their top two scorers on last year’s team. Cruz Lucius, fresh off hearing his name called in the fourth round of last year’s NHL Draft, is back and De St. Phalle is as well.

The freshman group is talented and Hastings singled out Whitelaw in particular as a guy who could contribute right away. But defense is another story.

“Work in progress on the blue line,” Hastings said.

Ready for a turnaround?

Hastings had instant success in his first year with Minnesota State, leading the Mavericks to a 24-14-3 record and an NCAA Tournament in his first season. Those 24 wins were a 12-win improvement from a year prior, where they won only 12 games all season.

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There are some similarities between this Wisconsin team and that Minnesota State team, but the nationwide precedent set so far is first year head coaches don’t make the tournament in year one.

Only five teams have ever gone from a losing record to the NCAA Tournament in the first year with a new coach, According to an article from BadgerExtra. One of those does belong to Hastings. Granato almost did it too — only being one win in the Big Ten title game away from making the tournament in his first year.

For the fans of a program who has had to endure losing seasons seven of the last nine years, an NCAA Tournament berth would be amazing. But, while fans may look at that as the end goal, Hastings has a wider view of how he would like to see his debut season go.

“I don’t want to look at it as we have to get to so-and-so record wise, I’ve never been that way and I don’t want to change that,” Hastings said. “We’re going to learn through all the experiences… this season is going to play out the way it does. We’re going to control what we can control and build our dailies into weeks and hopefully by the end of the season, we’re playing our best hockey.”

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