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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Wisconsin, North Dakota excited to extend rivalry

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Defenseman John Ramage (above) and company will have to be in top form to bring down the 2-1-1 Fighting Sioux this weekend.[/media-credit]

There are 16 underclassmen – 10 of which are freshmen. And no, it’s not Wisconsin.

North Dakota has found itself in a similar situation to the Wisconsin men’s hockey team, fielding a slew of young skaters. But the fact remains that North Dakota is still a feared power, returning nine veteran players who led the Sioux to a WCHA title last year.

Wisconsin (1-3-0, 0-2-0 WCHA) will have its hands full against a North Dakota (2-1-1, 0-0-0 WCHA) team that opens WCHA play at the Kohl Center Friday.

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“What we’re going to get from North Dakota is very similar to what we’ve seen every year we’ve played them,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “They’re going to come with speed, heart and very physical. Nothing has changed in the 10 years that I’ve been here. That’s their modus operendi. The only thing that changes is the names and the level of skill that they have within that framework.”

This weekend will be meeting No. 158 and 159 between these two storied programs. In their most recent matchups, the road team has held the upper hand, as UND went 2-0 at the Kohl Center last year, winning 1-0 and 4-2. Traveling to Grand Forks, Wisconsin has gone 4-1-1 in its last six games, but at home it’s 1-5-0 in that same span at home.

As Wisconsin has struggled to notch those game-winning goals, Eaves has moved the lines around this week, hoping new combinations will help make things happen on the ice.

“Absolutely,” Eaves said. “We’re just trying to stimulate. We gave a good look at the combinations we had and just tried to change a few things to see if could stimulate something that way.”

The top line will get even younger, as Eaves moved freshman forward Joe LaBate up to left wing on the first line with sophomores Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes. Sophomore forward Michael Mersch will move to the second line.

“Hopefully they work out,” LaBate said. “We’re all going with the same mentality: It’s a team sport, and you’ve got to work together. Hopefully the lines click, and hopefully we can get the win.”

“It’s offense and defense just trying to find the right chemistry with the right guys. Obviously we need more firepower; we lost two good scorers last year, and we’ve lost by one goal in all our games. … We definitely need a lot of goals and offense against this team. Hopefully we can get it.”

Wisconsin has scored eight goals this season from six different players, one of which LaBate scored in his Wisconsin debut in the season opener against Northern Michigan.

While changes on the lines may help create some more scoring opportunities on the ice, junior captain and defenseman John Ramage believes that if the defense is solid, the offense will follow accordingly.

“I think a good defense leads to good offense,” Ramage said. “If we’re solid in our own end and get the puck up, then that gives our forwards a chance to go and score. The more time we have puck possession the better chance we can score.”

Eaves may be trying to stimulate something new on offense, but when it comes to minding the net, he’s going to keep rotating freshmen Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel.

Much like he did in the past with Scott Gudmandson and Brett Bennett, Eaves will start Peterson Friday night and Rumpel Saturday night. He doesn’t expect to change this rotation any time soon.

“I think Landon handles that first night better,” Eaves said. “I think there’s a little bit more for Joel, with his personality, to sit on the bench and just watch. At least that’s my rationale.”

Despite its 1-3 record, Wisconsin is ready for a tough fight with North Dakota.

They know it won’t come easy, but the Badgers are excited to kick off WCHA play and face some historic rivals.

“They’re all jacked up,” Eaves said. “They had good energy. … One thing about this series, emotionally, you don’t have to work to get fired up. What we are looking for ourselves is some growth from last weekend.”

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