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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Eaves gives defensive corps a brief shakeup

Sophomore John Ramage wasn’t surprised to see Eaves make defensive changes with UW struggling.[/media-credit]

Mired in a four-game winless streak, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team had a feeling head coach Mike Eaves would look to make some changes during the week of practice.

On Tuesday, the Badger defensemen came to the rink and realized they had new partners along the blue line.

How’s that for change?


“I wasn’t surprised,” sophomore defenseman John Ramage said. “The last couple games we’ve been struggling a little bit, so I think the coaches were trying to test it out.”

“Last weekend there was some talk in-game of switching the D-pairs up,” freshman defenseman Frankie Simonelli added. “We came to practice Tuesday, and the pairs that were posted were different.”

The three pairings before Tuesday – Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz; John Ramage and Craig Johnson; Frankie Simonelli and Eric Springer – have been in place for the most part since the opening weeks of the season. But after allowing eight goals over the weekend to Minnesota, a change was in order.

Schultz was paired with Ramage. Gardiner was paired with Simonelli. And Johnson worked with Springer.

For the first time in months, the defensive corps was reworked.

Ramage, the Badgers’ hard-nosed, stay-at-home defenseman was paired with Schultz, a highly skilled, offensive-minded player who leads the country in points for a defenseman. Gardiner, his usual partner, has 35 points in his own right.

Did Ramage have visions of piling up the points playing alongside the nation’s highest scoring defenseman?

“No, I don’t think I’ll ever play with that mindset,” Ramage, who has one goal this season, said with a laugh. “I’m sure he’d keep scoring goals but not me.”

So what was the thinking behind changing a defensive lineup that had gained chemistry and familiarity over the course of the season?

“It was done with a two-fold thought process,” Eaves explained Wednesday. “A, to shake it up a little bit, and B, to see if we saw something we liked.

“It definitely shook it up, but we didn’t like what we saw.”

And just like that, the pairings were back to normal Wednesday.

“We went back with what we had,” Eaves said. “We looked a lot better today. But [assistant coach Bill Butters] went and talked to them after [on Tuesday] and said ‘we, as a defensive corps, need to step up our game’.”

Despite the statistics that show Wisconsin is the second-hardest team in the WCHA to score against (76 goals allowed in 24 games played), none of the UW defensemen were in disagreement with Butters’ message.

The Badgers were exposed on the their home ice against Minnesota, and it was not an easy film session to sit through at the series’ conclusion.

“Big breakdowns,” Eaves said. “Sometimes little ones are going to happen, but when a guy sneaks behind you and gets a breakaway or when we’re not covering in front of the net, we need to look at those things, and we need to take a look at what we’re doing here and sure up some of the details.”

The Gophers produced multiple odd-man rushes and at times had free reign in front of the UW net to create scoring chances.

Ramage knows that’s unacceptable moving forward, and it appears as though the defensemen got the message.

“It makes us focus a little more,” Ramage said. “The last two weekends we’ve been a little shaky, and we know we can be a lot better.”

As sophomore defenseman Justin Schultz put it, the lineup alterations were a “wake-up call,” and the Badgers will need to be at their best this weekend against the St. Cloud State Huskies.

After gaining just one point in the last four outings, UW sits just a point ahead of Minnesota and two points ahead of Colorado College for fifth place in the conference standings and eventual home-ice in the WCHA playoffs.

The Badgers are looking for ways to end their winless streak and cement their place in the standings.

Shoring up the play in their own zone would be a good start.

“We have to be better as a unit,” Ramage said. “We’ve worked hard in practice this week to make sure we’re at our best this weekend.”

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