After getting warmed up at the Ice Breaker and a nice little home sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, the Badgers will face their toughest test of their young season when they travel this weekend to Magness arena to face the Denver Pioneers.
Denver hasn't gotten off to the hottest start this season. They shockingly lost to Lethbridge, a fairly week CIS squad. They looked ok taking 3 points at Vermont but they were swept this past weekend by #1 ranked Boston College and by all accounts didn't look very good.
Denver, like Wisconsin lost a ton of talent off last years roster including WCHA Player of the Year Marc Cheverie. So far it looks like the Pioneers are still looking for his replacement. Junior Adam Murray was absolutely abysmal last season in limited action and hasn't looked much better this season. Freshman Sam Brittain, who was recruited hard by Wisconsin has fared better, despite being winless so far in two contests.
The Pioneers really struggled over the weekend to put the puck in the net recording only two goals all weekend. So far this season they are averaging two goals per game. Denver has arguably the top class of freshmen in the country and forwards Jason Zucker and Beau Bennett won't stay quiet for long. Bennett has gone scoreless in 4 games, and I bet on him being held scoreless this weekend. Talented freshman Nick Shore broke his hand/wrist and was fitted for a cast before last weekends series. Shore did not play last weekend and I wouldn't expect him back against the Badgers but it's something to follow.
Despite losing Patrick Weircoich to the pros, the Pios are actually pretty strong back on the blue line. Sophomore Matt Donovan is one of the top defensemen already in the WCHA and they add in talented freshman David Makowski to help ease the blow of Weircoich.
According to the DU Hockey blog "LetsGoDU," there will be a pre-game pep rally party on Saturday before the game. Obviously the party is for DU fans but Denver has some cool fans and I'm sure it will be a fun event for Badger fans making the trip.
If your looking for coverage on the Denver side of things this week. The LetsGoDU hockey blog is solid and the Denver Post's Mike Chambers is one of the best in the business.
The Friday night game will be televised live on FSN Wisconsin and FSN Rocky Mountain. Game time is 8:30 Central Time. The Saturday night game will not be on TV but will be broadcast via webcast for a fee on Pioneer Vision at www.denverpioneers.com. Webcast is only available on Saturday. Saturday game time is 8:00 Central Time.
Wisconsin checks in (again) this week #15 in the USCHO.com poll and moves up 1 spot to #14 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Denver falls from #6 to #11 in the USCHO.com poll, and from #8 to #13 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll.
Patrick Johnson suffered a concussion on Sunday according to Andy Baggot and will undergo testing this week. His availability for this weekend is currently unknown. With concussion treatment on the front burner, I would expect PJ to sit out the weekend.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Michael Mersch move up to PJ's spot on the unit with Dolan and Ryan Little. Eaves has expressed interest in getting Mersch more ice time and this would be an opportunity to do so. I would expect Jefferson Dahl to center the fourth line with Hartzog and Meuer as his wingers Friday and Jason Clark making the trip as the extra forward.
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