In college sports, players can only play with a team for at most for four years. After they leave it is important for returning players to step in and make an impact. The top teams in the NCAA do this annually, but sometimes there isn’t a lot of experience that returns to a team or a position. In 2011-12 this problem will be faced by the Badgers between the pipes.
The Badgers will open up on Oct. 7 with three goalies on its roster. Two freshmen will join junior Mitch Thompson. In Thompson’s first two years with the Badgers he has yet to see any action. The Badgers may not have any experience at goalie but the returning defensemen may help the transition become a little bit easier
Junior defenseman Justin Schultz was one of the best in nation last season. Schultz was the nation’s leading blue line scorer recording 18 goals and assisting on 29 others, 27 of those points came on the Badgers power-play, which also led the nation. Inside College Hockey recognized Schultz, along with the WCHA, as the Defensive Player of the Year.
Schultz is joined by other defensemen contributors, junior John Ramage and sophomore Joe Faust. Between the two they have played in a career 57 games while scoring two goals and registering 11 assists.
Sophomore forward Mark Zengerle returns to the Badgers after starting all 41 games as a true freshman. Zengerle scored five goals while leading the team in assists with 31. His 31 assists were also tops in the conference. Last season Zengerle played on the first line while also playing on the top power-play unit.
Tyler Barnes and Michael Mersch, both sophomore forwards, also skated in 41 games last season. Barnes and Mersch combined for 13 goals and 23 assists.
Junior forward Derek Lee brings his 57 career games, 4 goals and 22 assists back to the Badgers in 2011. Joining Lee will be the Little brothers. Redshirt junior Ryan Little has scored 6 goals and 7 assists in his 61 career games. Younger brother Sean played all 41 games scoring 5 goals and assisting on 12 others as a sophomore.
The Badgers only return one senior, Eric Springer. Springer skated in a career high 28 games last season while registering two assists. In his 49 career games Springer has one career goal and four assists.
The Badgers have the opportunity to continue to improve while staying young. Nine freshmen will join the 2011-12 Badgers as they try to make the Frozen Four tournament after missing it last year.