The Badgers men’s hockey team will have two firsts this weekend as they take to the road and open up WCHA play against Michigan Tech in Houghton, Mich.
The 1-1-0 Badgers look to continue with the success it has had against the 2-0-0 Huskies. The Huskies took an opening weekend sweep against American International 4-3 and 3-1.
After the Badgers two comebacks over the weekend, one it lost and one it won, Head Coach Mike Eaves looks at taking to the road as more of a positive for his young team.
“Personally, I think getting on the road for the first series is kind of a blessing in disguise,” Eaves said. “I think it's good to get on the road. It's simpler. You don't have to worry about tickets as much, and what's going on at the dorm, people coming into town, so I don't look at so much as a challenge.” Eaves continued, “It's a good chance for us to come together, and other than we've got to play somebody, it just happens to be in somebody else's rink, and I think sometimes if the pressure's off, we can play a simpler game and just go have at it.”
Over the past two seasons the Badgers have dominated the Huskies going 10-0-0 in its last 10 meetings and have not lost since the 2007 season. Over those 10 games the Badgers have outscored its WCHA opponent 50-14. Eaves understands the importance of winning in conference, and winning early.
“The fact that it's going to be ultra competitive every week,” Eaves said about the difficulty of the WCHA. “At the end of the year, when you're trying to win going down the stretch, it's really hard to win. By Christmas time, we will have a good feel of who they are, and they'll be playing the kind of hockey they want to play, and it's just a war going down the backstretch.”
After freshmen goaltenders Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson both made their collegiate debuts, neither were able to grab the starting job after Eaves was impressed with both goalies. Rumpel allowed two early goals in the first period while Peterson allowed three goals, one in the first period, one in the second and eventually the game-winner with seconds left in overtime.
“Both played very well,” Eaves said when asked about his freshmen goaltenders. “I think that the biggest difference in the two young goalies were that Landon looked more comfortable quicker. I think that Joel, it took him that first period to kind of get through that. ‘Oh, they scored on me. I got that done. I don't have to worry about pitching a shutout anymore’ and he played well. His feet were good. He made some big saves and really backstopped what we needed to have done from that position.”
Whichever goaltender is in the game, they will have their hands full with sophomore forward Jacob Johnstone. Against American International last weekend, Johnstone scored two goals in the Huskies 3-1 win. As a freshman Johnstone scored four goals and recorded 15 assists in 38 games.
Joining Johnstone is junior defenseman Steven Seigo. Seigo had one goal and two assists over the weekend and has 10 goals and 37 assists in his career.
The Huskies also have freshman forward Blake Pietila. Pietila, who is the Huskies first NHL draft pick since 2008, scored two goals and assisted on another in his first career game while being named WCHA Rookie of the Week.
The Huskies have a similar rotation between the pipes as the Badgers. Junior goaltender Kevin Genoe allowed three goals but still got the win. Genoe has played in 51 games as a freshman and sophomore and has an .884 save percentage and 3.78 goals-against average. Senior goaltender Josh Robinson started game two of the series and held American International to one goal. Throughout his 55 game career he has an .883 save percentage and a 4.11 goals-against average.
My predication for the weekend stays consistent to what the Badgers have done in the past against the Huskies. The Badgers will sweep the two games series in Houghton, Mich while scoring early and often against two below average goalies. Friday night, 5-1 Badgers victory and Saturday will be 5-2 in favor of the good guys.