Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin to head east for tough tests

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The Wisconsin men’s hockey team couldn’t have asked for a tougher opening to its 2008-09 season.

Mike Eaves’ Badgers head to the East Coast this weekend, where they’ll take on the top-ranked Boston College Eagles — last season’s national champions — tonight and then travel to Durham, N.H. to face No. 7 New Hampshire Saturday.


As tough as this opening series may be, many of the Badgers are excited to start out against the nation’s best.

“It’s going to test how mature we are, our leadership,” senior goaltender Shane Connelly said. “The freshmen are going to have to learn. They’re going right into the fire. I think it’s an awesome way to start.”

“It’s just exciting to sort of test things out against the best team in the country right now,” said senior forward Ben Street, one of the team’s two co-captains along with junior Blake Geoffrion. “We’ve had a lot of good practices. The team’s coming together, so we have to find out where we’re at.”

The Badgers finished last season 16-17-7 overall and fell one game short of making the NCAA Frozen Four after losing to North Dakota 3-2 in late March. They lost just five players from last season’s squad and welcome in seven freshmen.

Highlighting the list of newcomers is Jake Gardiner, a defenseman from Minnetonka, Minn., who was drafted 17th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Just like the rest of his new teammates, Gardiner is anxious to hit the ice.

“They’re going to be raising the [national championship] banner right when we get there, so that’s pretty cool,” Gardiner said. “I think we’re ready for them.”

Gardiner will be one of the newest components of an already solid defensive corps that returns all but two players from a year ago. Junior Jamie McBain led all scorers last season with five goals and 19 assists, while linemate Ryan McDonagh finished with 12 points.

“They’re impressive. It’s hard to find a more talented group of defensemen in the nation,” Connelly said. “They’re young, but they have experience, they have the talent, they’re mature enough. It’s going to be fun to watch them, especially for me watching them grow. … The sky’s the limit for that ‘D’ corps.”

With the loss of Kyle Turris, last year’s leading scorer — who jumped to the NHL after just one season with UW — the Badgers will rely on a team-oriented approach to scoring. For McBain and the other blueliners, that changes their role a bit.

“As far as putting the puck in the back of the net, I think if we can do that and kind of help our forwards out in that aspect until they find their scoring touch, that’ll definitely help us out,” McBain said. “I think when we’re at our best and we’re involved in the offense, our team ultimately has the most success.”

Geoffrion knows he and the other forwards will also have to pick up the scoring as a unit.

“I think it’s going to come all around. It won’t just be one guy,” Geoffrion said. “Losing a guy like Turris obviously hurts, but I think we’ll be a lot more spread out for sure.”

Behind the defensemen will be an experienced netminder in Connelly, who posted 2.44 goals against average last season in his first full year as a starter. With other teams in the WCHA — namely North Dakota, Denver and Michigan Tech — losing veteran goalies over the offseason, having Connelly between the pipes will be a source of comfort for Wisconsin.

“Just my experience with all of last year, I’m not going in not knowing what’s going on,” Connelly said. “I know everything I need to do and everything that’s expected of me. It makes my job a lot easier.”

Leading this young Badger team offensively will be co-captains Street and Geoffrion, who admittedly have different leadership styles — Street as the lead-by-example type, Geoffrion embracing a more vocal role. Both finished last year with 30 points each and were voted as captains by their teammates before the season began.

“It’s a huge honor,” Street said. “There’s a lot of great players that have played here before to wear the ‘C.’ I’m just going to do my best to keep that tradition going.”

Street still has memories of his sophomore season, when Boston College came to Madison and swept the then-defending national champion Badgers. So when he and Wisconsin take the ice tonight, they’re hoping to turn the tables.

“We go up against the best team in the country, and we get a chance to knock them off,” Street said. “I remember a couple years ago they came in right after we had had a big year, and they kind of paid the favor back to us. Hopefully we can repeat history.”

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