Six games into the the 2010-2011 Wisconsin hockey season and there are still plenty of question marks scattered across their kohl center dressing room.
After a dominating sweep of a mediocre Alabama-Huntsville squad, the Badgers managed only one point on the road against a very young Denver squad who is already being hit hard with injuries.
After graduating multiple seniors and losing some key underclassmen to the pros, one of the big question marks for this Badger squad was where the scoring was going to come from. Craig Smith and Jordy Murray, the two obvious answers have done their part, averaging over a point per game so far on the young season. Senior Captain Sean Dolan has chipped in as well, putting up 5 points in 6 games. Although if this team wants to play for something at the end of the year, we're going to need more consistency up front from Podge Turnbull, Derek Lee, Patrick Johnson and others putting the puck in the net. The secondary scoring isn't where it needs to be.
One player that has no doubt caught your attention is freshman Mark Zengerle. Seemingly hyped up by the writers of this site since his commitment, even we didn't think he would burst on to the scene the way he has. As a 21 year old freshman, there is no doubt that he has been helped out by his age and junior experience. Wisconsin communications guy Paul Capobianco noted during the game live blog on UWBadgers.com that the last Badger to record points in his first five games at Wisconsin was Joe Pavelski. Zengerle surpassed Pav's this weekend when his first period goal on Saturday gave him points in his first six. Robbie Earl recorded a point in his first 7 games and the record is Chris Tancill recording points in his first 8 games in 1989-90. (Thanks to Capobianco for the stats)
Defensively the Badgers are experienced but they plain and simple need to be better. We've gotten some solid play at times from a hand full of our defenders but the consistency isn't where it needs to be to compete night in night out in the WCHA.
Goaltending wise, I'm going to be honest I'm confused. I understand that Gudmandson won the job at the end of last season down the stretch but that was last season. I see no reason why we felt we needed to go back to him on Saturday night. Brett Bennett has held his own through limited action this season and deserved his shot at an elite opponent. Don't get me wrong, I think Scotty is playing good, but it's too early to be picking goaltending match ups. Keep the rotation.
Looking at Michigan Tech, they are off to one of the best starts in recent memory. The team comes into this weekends match up at the Kohl Center undefeated. Think about that one for a second. Tech is 3-0-2 and they had a bye week last weekend. If anyone thinks that this is a push over 4 points for the Badgers they are in for a rude awakening. Tech may not be fighting for the WCHA title this season but they are going to turn some heads.
Offensively the Huskies are led by a bunch of guys you've probably never heard of. Eric Kattelus and Bennett Royer are leading the charge up front so far with 7 and 6 points respectively. Steven Seigo, one of the only Tech players that is known on a national level is their leading scorer, and he's a defenseman. Only a sophomore, Seigo has 8 points in his first 5 games of the season including 3 goals.
Wisconsin native Brett Olson is off to a strong start for the Huskies as well. The Superior native has 5 points in 5 games. Last season Olson led the young Huskies in scoring with 30 points. As you can expect, as a player passed over by Wisconsin during his recruitment, Olson is going to take his game to the next level playing at the Kohl Center.
The Huskies have been rotating goaltenders this season but Sophomore Kevin Genoe has the better statistics. He comes in 2-0-1 with a 2.10 GAA and .944 save percentage. Last season as a freshman Genoe got the majority of the starts and despite having an atrocious win/loss ratio, finished with a respectable .904 save percentage.
There is no television Friday night but Saturday it will be on WISC-TV, Charter Xtra, Time Warner Sports and tape delayed at Wisconsin Channel at 11 PM. There will be a video stream ($) both nights on UWBadgers.com
Wisconsin dropped in both polls this week. They fell from #15 to #18 in the USCHO.com poll, and from #14 to "others receiving votes" in the USA Today/USA Hockey Poll. Note that the USA Today poll only ranks 15 teams where as USCHO does 20.
Michigan Tech received votes in both polls but did not crack the top 20.
I was honestly surprised to see Wisconsin trot Patrick Johnson out there last weekend after his injury but by all accounts it sounded like he played pretty well. He had an assist on Saturday and it sounded like he was a shot blocking machine. Hopefully we see that out of Patty all season long and hopefully his head is ok. I'm not aware of any other injuries right now.
Wisconsin is the superior club there is no doubt about that but like I mentioned Tech is no pushover and they have had 2 weeks to prepare. It's at the Kohl Center which is always an advantage for Bucky.
Friday Night: Tie-Michigan Tech 3, Wisconsin 3
Saturday Night: Win-Wisconsin 5, Michigan Tech 2
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