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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers’ top line full of potential

Michael Mersch scored the game-tying goal in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Northern Michigan. Mersch also recorded one assist for UW.[/media-credit]

There really is no way around it – Wisconsin’s men’s hockey team is young.

Yet a trio of sophomore forwards that has only been together for a year has already landed itself leading roles for the Badgers.

Mark Zengerle, Micheal Mersch and Tyler Barnes, while not the most veteran forwards, make up the Badgers’ first line. This year, they want to be “those guys.”


“They want to be the guys on this team that lead offensively, playing against another top line,” head coach Mike Eaves said after UW’s 3-2 win over Northern Michigan Saturday. “They didn’t hit that mark [Friday] night; they did [Saturday] night.”

Despite a rude wake-up call Friday night, the trio bounced back Saturday, playing at a higher, more competitive level and ultimately combining for two of Wisconsin’s five goals, two assists and a total of 21 shots on goal on the weekend.

Last season, the forwards were the top freshmen on the team. Zengerle leads in points with a total of 36 points from five goals and 31 assists. Mersch had the most goals of the three with eight and an additional 11 assists for 19 points. Barnes rounds them out with five goals and 12 assists for a total of 17. The only returning player with more points is defenseman Justin Schultz, who finished the season with 47 points.

But with an inconsistent weekend, the trio knows it has a lot to prove.

“We’re excited to play together,” Barnes said. “We really haven’t done much to prove [that we’re making an impact]. We still have got a long ways to go, and we’re going to work every day towards that. Hopefully we be the line that everyone’s hoping and expecting.”

They lead a young squad, but the three of them have more experience than their respective years of eligibility suggest.

“We’re a really young team,” Mersch said. “Mark and Tyler are both older guys, both 21-years old. But I’m kind of feeding off them, and hopefully we can make some plays.”

In order to make those plays and be the line everyone is expecting, they have to be more consistent.

Friday night, it was clear they expected things were going to be a lot easier than they actually were. The trio just couldn’t play a consistent game or finish a scoring opportunity. Its play seemed frantic, dashed with moments of great potential that reaped no personal results.

Saturday, it slowly became evident that it learned from its underestimation Friday night and took that to heart. In the end, both Mersch and Barnes notched their first goals of the season, while Zengerle was relentless with eight shots on goal.

“What they did on Saturday is what they have to bring every night,” Eaves said. “If they don’t do that, they’re not playing to their potential and they should be disappointed in themselves … When you understand, to be a good pro, the highest compliment you can get is to be consistent every time you play. That’s what these young men are trying to get to.”

“We got off to a slow start Friday night,” Zengerle said. “Saturday night, we played a lot better, I thought. [Barnes] and Mersch both got a goal. We played more in [Northern Michigan’s] zone, less in ours. We just have to build off of that and get better every day in practice.”

While they’re improving through game experience and finding how to be more consistent, Eaves believes they need to be more than consistent to lead this Wisconsin team – they need to continually play to their strengths.

All three are constantly aware of each other on the ice and know what each brings to the ice. Between Zengerle’s vision, Mersch’s size (one of UW’s bigger skaters at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and Barnes’ ability to score, they have to continually strive to play to their potential.

“You know what that word and 80 cents gets you? A cup of coffee at McDonalds,” Eaves said. “I think it’s a matter of playing to their strengths and they all have strengths. Mersch is big and strong. He needs to go in the hard areas and create space for those other two line mates.

“Obviously Mr. Zengerle sees the ice very well. I know he’s trying to work on his shot and shooting more, and he did that on Saturday night. [Barnes] has great energy; he’s shifty, he can shoot the puck, he needs to play to those strengths, but they need to bring that every night.”

In light of the work ahead of it and the talent its members have, the trio still has a strong chemistry on the ice that only helps it play stronger together.

Roommates for two years in a row, the three forwards are close friends, which they believe transfers to the ice.

“We’re really good friends,” Barnes said. “We lived together all of last year, and we’re living together this year too. We’re all good friends, and I think that’s important to the chemistry of a line.”

That sort of chemistry is what they need to fulfill their potential and make the Badgers a team worthy of an adjective more than “young” or “inexperienced.”

“Unfulfilled potential is not worth the paper that you write it on,” Eaves said. “They have to bring it every day.”

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