Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Duluth Week: #1 In the Nation comes to Mad-Town

"The great part about coaching is that you understand the realm is coming together, growing together, suffering together, and hopefully, regrouping together, and continually growing together so you can celebrate together."-Head Coach Mike Eaves

The 2010-11 Wisconsin hockey team took two on the chin this past weekend against North Dakota. The greatest thing about college hockey is that they have two games this weekend to redeem themselves.

The University of Minnesota-Duluth, ranked #1 in the country by both the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey polls rolls into Madison this weekend to take on the Badgers.

last weekends offensive output was brutal by all definitions. The Badgers managed only 2 goals on the weekend and both came off the sticks of defensemen. The boys in cardinal and white also only managed to rack up 32 shots on the entire weekend. To say the least, an uncharacteristic weekend for the team that came into the weekend leading the nation in total goals scored and was third in the country in goals per game.

Wisconsin's talented trio of Mark Zengerle, Craig Smith, and Jordy Murray were held scoreless all weekend which is the first time all season that all three were held off the score sheet, and it happened on back to back nights. Murray suffered an injury on the Brett Hextall hit but he should be ready to go for this weekends games.

Scott Gudmandson played in net both nights and was spectacular all weekend. As usual, he will be your Friday starter and Eaves will decide on Saturday if he will stick with Scott or go with Brett Bennett (who more than deserves the chance).

Duluth rolls into town this weekend with a 9-1-2 record and boasts (With all due respect to Miami's Camper/Meile/Smith) the best line in the country with Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly, and Justin Fontaine. The Connolly's both have 18 points through 12 games and Fontaine has 16. Most likely you will see the Patrick Johnson/Sean Dolan/Ryan Little line trying to match up with with Duluth's top unit this weekend and obviously Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz will be on the ice against that unit as much as possible.

Duluth also boasts a talented blueline with Mike Montgomery, Dylan Olsen, Justin Faulk, Trent Palm, Wade Bergman and Brady Lamb. Faulk has stepped in as a freshman out of the NTDP and has 10 points through the first 12 games of the season.

Talented freshman J.T. Brown who played with Badger freshman Tyler Barnes last season in Waterloo (USHL) has also lived up to his billing so far in the young season. Brown has 13 points in 12 games playing on the second unit with Travis Oleksuk and Kyle Schmidt.

Between the pipes the Bulldogs have been rotating between Kenny Reiter who got most of the action last season and former Badger recruit Aaron Crandall. Both goalies have played decent this season and I wouldn't be shocked to see both goalies play this weekend like they did when Duluth split up at North Dakota a few weeks ago.

COVERAGE

The Friday night game will be broadcast on FSN and rebroadcast on the Wisconsin channel at 11PM. Saturday night the game will be broadcast locally on what is usually My Network Tv. It will be rebroadcast at 10 on the Wisconsin channel.

POLLS

Last weeks sweep at the hands of UND dropped the Badgers from #13 to #15 in the USCHO.com poll and from #14 to #15 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.

Duluth's sweep of Michigan Tech propelled them into the top spot in both polls.

INJURIES

Jordy Murray got pretty banged up on Friday after the Hextall hit and needed stitches in his chin. Eaves expects him full go this weekend. Gavin Hartzog is still out with what is believed to be a sprained ankle.

PREDICTIONS

There is no way this team gets swept on back to back weekends in their home building. Last weekend was the first time in 62 games that the Badgers have even been beaten in back to back games. Wisconsin will come out hard on Friday but relax a bit on Saturday where Duluth will pick up a split.

Friday: Wisconsin 5, Duluth 3
Saturday: Duluth 4, Wisconsin 2

chuckschwartz@live.com
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