Coming into this season, many were not sure what to expect from this young team, including Head Coach Mike Eaves. While winning three out of its last four games, the young Badgers team have scored at least five goals in those three wins, and scored four in its lone loss.
“I really think that with a young team it's hard to put expectations on a team,” Eaves said. “It's better to have an open mind, don't limit them, and don't put low parameters on them. So I think as we go along, we'll see how they grow and maybe for the second half the season, once we have a feel, we can set better parameters.”
The Badgers scoring has been in direct link with the stellar play of three particular players. Sophomore Forwards Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes along with team captain, junior forward Justin Schultz. The three have each recorded a point in seven straight games.
Schultz has been a model of consistency for the rest of his teammates. The team leader is second on the team in scoring and leads the team with 10 assists while scoring just one goal this season.
This past Saturday night against UNO, Zengerle scored two goals while assisting on another in the team’s 6-3 victory. Zengerle has been the team’s leading scorer through the first eight games with 11 points (four goals and seven assists). For his efforts this weekend Zengerle was named the INCH.com National Player of the Week.
On Friday night Barnes sparked the team, scoring two goals, but the Badgers allowed a power play goal with 20 seconds remaining to lose 5-4. Barnes is third on the team with nine points. Barnes leads the team with five goals and assisting on four others. As good as Barnes has played in just his second season, Eaves is looking for consistency.
“If we can get Tyler Barnes to play Saturday like he does Friday, we'll have something special,” Eaves said. On Friday, he's been dynamite. He leads our team in stats and in production. Saturday night, he still hasn't gone to that next level of consistency. I think Tyler has aspirations of playing at the next level. One of the definitions of being a professional athlete, other than being paid, is the fact that you're consistent day in and day out.”
The Badgers will travel to St. Could State to take on the Huskies in a weekend series.St. Cloud is 3-4-1 on the year (1-1-0 WCHA) and are coming off a weekend split against North Dakota. The Huskies took Friday night’s game 4-0 and fell 3-1 on Saturday to the Fighting Sioux. Wisconsin comes in at 4-4-0 overall and 3-3-0 in WCHA play. Overall Wisconsin leads the series between these two schools with a 43-28-8 record, but 16 of the 28 losses have come at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Both the Badgers and Huskies are also receiving votes in this weeks USHO.com poll, with the Badgers sitting just one spot out of the Top 20. Also, the Badgers and Huskies were picked to finish in a 7th place tie in the WCHA Preseason Media Poll.
SCSU is led by senior forward Drew LeBlanc. Through eight games he is leading the team in assists, with 9, and points, with 11. Fellow senior forward Jared Festler has the team lead with five goals and has assisted on three others.
The Huskies have a similar goaltending rotation to that of the Badgers. Freshman netminder Ryan Faragher took home WCHA Rookie of the Week honors for that shut out victory at UND last Friday and is likely to start again tonight in the series opener. Saturday may see Mike Lee between the pipes, although the Huskies chose to ride the hot hand of Faragher last weekend. Combined, SCSU boasts a 2.95 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Ever since the Michigan Tech loss, which looks better and better after each top opponent Tech has knocked off, the Badgers offense has been better than ever. They have climbed to the top of the WCHA in scoring and I expect this weekend to be full of scoring for both teams.
Both games will be televised on Charter Cable via Charter Extra 87. However you can listen to all the action on the radio by going to Badgersportsnetwork.com.