Reminder: Saturday game time vs Michigan State has been changed from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM due to the football game time switch.
Coming in to the 2010-2011 hockey season, Wisconsin hockey fans prepared themselves for a roller coaster ride. So with the highs (6-0 drubbing of Minnesota), come the lows (back to back home sweeps at the hands of UND and UMD).
This weekend is a chance for redemption for the Wisconsin Badgers who despite losing the last four games, have played tough, including taking the near unanimous number one team in the country to overtime on back to back nights.
This holiday weekend brings to town Michigan and Michigan State for the College Hockey Showcase. This event which has been held annually for the past 17 years will be the final one.
Last weekend the Badgers despite being swept showed a lot of moxie. It was the first time this season that the goaltending wasn't top notch but the team battled through it and showed some poise including scoring a goal with an extra attacker to force overtime on Friday night.
Freshman forward Tyler Barnes found the back of the net a few times over the weekend and is looking more and more conferable every time on the ice. Looked upon by the coaching staff as a point producer coming into the season, Barnes success with the Badgers the rest of the season will go a long ways in determining how far they can go.
Mark Zengerle continues to rack up assists compiling three more last weekend. The New York native is now third in the country in assists and fifth in the country in total points. Zengerle leads the country in points scored by a freshman.
Junior forward Jordy Murray buried two goals over the weekend and is now in an elite group of only 4 other players in the country so far to have reached double digits in goals. The hard nosed winger out of Shattuck St. Marys has found a home out in front of the net and isn't afraid to get his beak dirty.
Michigan rolls in to town on Friday night ranked #8 in the country by both national polls and sports an 8-3-3 record so far. The Wolverines swept Lake Superior State last weekend 7-2, 3-2.
A veteran team, the Wolverines are led up front by a pair of seniors in Louie Caporusso and Carl Hagelin. Caporusso has recorded 40 points the past two seasons and Hagelin hit the 50 point mark a season ago.
Defensively watch out for electrifying freshman Jon Merrill who was drafted #38 overall in this past seasons NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils. Merrill, who committed to Michigan at fourteen years old has put up a solid 8 points through his first 14 college hockey games.
In net, Shawn Hunwick and Bryan Hogan have each played seven games for the maize and blue. The tandem has been rotation for the most part of the season but Hogan seems to have the better statistics early in the this young season. It looks like Hunwick has been starting on most Friday nights including the past two, so odds are that trend continues.
Saturday night Michigan State will take the four hour bus ride from the twin cities down 94 East to face the Badgers in the second night of the College Hockey Showcase. The Spartans haven't had the success they are accustomed to this season with only a 4-6-3 record. Sparty was swept over the weekend by Notre Dame and lost a rare Tuesday game against Ferris State last night.
Junior forward Brett Perlini is the leading scorer for State so far in the season. The Ontario native has 8 goals so far in 13 games, doubling any other player on the team. Perlini's 13 points already eclipse his 12 points last year as a sophomore.
Don't be surprised if you see a familiar face in the crowd this weekend. Former Badger Chris Chelios has two sons that now play for Michigan State. Jake, a freshman is second on the team in goals with 4 and has 6 points. Dean, a sophomore has two points.
Drew Palmisano has handled the bulk of the goaltending duties for the boys out of East Lancing so far this season. Palmisano has played 12 out of the 13 games for Sparty and sports a respectable .908 save percentage.
Friday night there is no TV coverage. The game will be on bigtennetwork.com but I think they charge a small fee. The same is true for the Saturday game. My TV guide lists the Saturday game on television so you can check on Charter Extra, but I'm not holding my breath.
Wisconsin dropped from #15 to #16 in the USCHO.com poll and from #15 to the "also receiving votes" category in the USA Hockey/USA Today poll. Wisconsin's Friday opponent, Michigan comes in ranked #8 in both polls. Michigan State is "also receiving votes" in the USCHO poll and is un-ranked by USA Hockey/USA Today.
The only injury I'm aware of right now is the ankle injury of Gavin Hartzog. I haven't heard an update on his status in quite some time. Even if he is healthy, there is a lot of competition for the last one or two spots in the lineup.
Wisconsin needs victories in the worst way. Wisconsin has hung in with every team in the country so far and they have played some pretty good teams. There isn't a team out there right now that is going to come into a game with our Badgers and blow us away. Hungry, energized, and focused I think the Badgers come away from this weekend with a pair of victories.
Friday: Wisconsin 3, Michigan 2
Saturday: Wisconsin 6, Michigan State 2
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