Monday, October 5, 2009

09/10 WCHA Previews: University of Wisconsin

School: University of Wisconsin
Mascot: Badgers
National Championships: 6 (’73, ’77, ’81, ’83, ’90 & ’06)
Head Coach: Mike Eaves, 143-111-34, 8th season

Last Season: 14-11-3, 3rd Place WCHA; 20-16-4 Overall

Predicted 09/10 WCHA Finish: 2nd

Key Departures:
D Jamie McBain, 7-30-37*
F Tom Gorowsky, 12-18-30
G Shane Connelly, 19-14-4, 2.51 GAA, 0.913 save %
*All stats listed from 08/09

Key Returnees: (84.7% of scoring returns)
F Derek Stepan (So), 9-24-33
F Blake Geoffrion (Sr), 15-13-28
F John Mitchell (Sr), 15-11-26
F The Bohmber (Sr), 10-15-25
F Michael Davies (Sr), 10-13-23

Top Tender:
To be determined

Key Additions:
F Craig Smith (USHL), 28-48-76
D Justin Schultz (BCHL), 15-35-50
G Brett Bennett (USHL), 35-17-2, 2.59 GAA, 0.910 save%
F Derek Lee (BCHL), 12-47-59
D John Ramage (US NTDP), 2-10-12

Freshman Scouting Report: Unlike the last few classes, this class does not include multiple early round NHL picks, but overall is a solid class who very well could be the back bone of the team in the seasons to come. Justin Schultz is a star and two time BCHL Defenseman of the Year. Craig Smith tied for 2nd in scoring in the USHL, and Derek Lee is another talented playmaker. Brett Bennett helped the Indiana Ice to the Clark Cup Championship last season in the USHL. John Ramage is a solid stay at home blue liner, which is sorely needed to balance all the talented offensive dmen.

08/09 Recap: The Badgers started 0-6-1 and things were dire. The Badgers brought the ship back around and by Christmas had climbed above .500 w/ a nice 9-1-1 run. Then the second half of the season began, and the Badgers proceeded to blow countless 3rd period leads. A win either night against N. Michigan, Saturday vs CC, Saturday vs Duluth or Friday vs Denver and the Badgers dance in the NCAA Tourney. They SHOULD have won all of those games. In the end, between the bad start, and the inconsistent finish to the season, the Badgers missed the NCAA Tourney by the slimmest of margins.

There were many bright spots during the season. The Badgers were in the top 3 in scoring, PP and PK, and 1st in combined special teams and Special Teams Net in WCHA games. Jamie McBain was special most of the season, was WCHA POY and a 1st Team All-American. Freshman Derek Stepan lead the team in scoring the last 20 games of the years. Tom Gorowsky FINALLY got the chance to play and was 3rd on the team in scoring, and lastly Andy Bohmbach slayed WCHA opponents w/ reckless abandon during his breakout season.

Team’s Biggest Strength(es): Best blue line in NCAA Hockey, enough said.

Team’s Biggest Weakness(es): Goaltending is a question. Scott Gudmandson did not play well last season in the few chances he received, while Brett Bennett was the top goalie in the USHL. It should be a battle between the two for the top spot, and hopefully both play well right out of the gate. Jeff Sanger has been added as a volunteer goalie coach, which is a huge bonus.

09/10 Thoughts: Things are looking up for the Badgers this season. Only Jamie McBain left early, the team could easily have lost Blake Geoffrion and Ryan McDonagh. John Mitchell wasn’t a lock to return either. For the first time in several seasons, the Badgers will be dominated by upperclassmen. Ben Street returns following a medical redshirt. The stereotype of boring offense wasn’t remotely true last season (while the stereotype of horrible gopher goaltending certainly was), and w/ all the returning talent that should continue this year. The blue line is special, McDonagh and Cody Goloubef will be the leaders, and complimented by Brendan Smith and Jake Gardiner. The only real question is in goal, and cleaning up the 3rd period collapses that riddled the 2nd half of the season last year. I think leadership was lacking last season, Street’s return goes a long way to helping this.

Can’t wait for the season to start.