Tuesday, November 9, 2010

North Dakota Week

"Wisconsin is continuing to prove in this, their supposed rebuilding year, that they don’t rebuild; they reload, and arguably do it better than anyone in the league."-Theresa Spisak, USCHO.com WCHA writer

Another week, another Badger hockey team answering my requests. Two weeks ago I implored our squad for some secondary scoring, and Michael Mersch, Patrick Johnson and others stepped up to the plate.

Last weekend I noted that we needed a signature win to give us confidence and silence the critics. Our boys responded with a 6-0 spanking of the maroon and gold.

This week we've got North Dakota coming to town. The same North Dakota that yours truly picked to win this years National Championship.

Wisconsin is going to need to be physical from the drop of the puck this weekend. Traditionally these games are fast paced, hard hitting affairs. As evidenced by the videos I posted yesterday, sometimes these games can get out of control. Both teams are in the top ten in penalty minutes this year and I don't suspect that to change after this weekends contests.

Last weekend offensive dynamo Mark Zengerle continued his brilliant freshman season putting up a goal and five assists on the weekend. He admitted after the weekend that he banged up one of his knees early on Saturday and had to fight through it. He should be fine for the series after getting treatment throughout this week.

Believe it or not, Wisconsin is leading the country in goals scored this season. Overall they are third in goals scored per game. Junior Jordy Murray and Sophomore Craig Smith are playing at a very high level right now. Murray continues to find the back of the net and is on pace to become only the third Badger to surpass the 20 goal mark since the 2006 National Championship team.

On the blueline, Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz continue to impress me with what they can bring to this team offensively. It was evident this past weekend that Eaves has stressed using trailing forwards and defensemen on the rush and it provided us with some goals and some great opportunities.

The goaltending rotation between Bennett and Gudmandson is all but guaranteed to continue this weekend against the Sioux. Both goalies have been great and have been the backbone for this team so far.

North Dakota comes into the weekend not where I expected them to be at this point. Throughout Hakstols tenure at North Dakota, they have traditionally started the season slow and ended hot but I still expected more out of this years club. North Dakota is just 2-4 in their last 6 games which include getting blown out in a road sweep at Maine.

Goaltender Brad Eidsness has been a lightning rod for criticism from the fan base. After being the #1 starter the past two seasons for the Sioux, he's lost his grasp on the job after giving up 12 goals this season on only 56 shots. I would expect to see Aaron Dell on Friday and Hakstol will probably make a decision on Saturday when that time comes.

A loaded North Dakota blue line has yet to meet expectations this season. The goaltenders haven't been great but the defense has given up an excessive amount of opportunities. Andrew MacWilliam and Derek Forbort both missed last weekends series against UMD with an illness. I haven't heard if they will be available this weekend or not. Forbort missed the weekend before as well.

Chay Genoway is back this season after taking a medical red shit last year after being cheap shoted by St. Cloud goon Aaron Marvin. UND beat writer Brad Elliott Schlossman noted this about Chay last weekend: "Chay Genoway continues to look like the Chay of old. He was very good last night. UND coach Dave Hakstol said he was pleased with Genoway’s performance, but thinks there’s still “one more notch left.” "

The Gregoire/Knight/Hextall line has been the #1 unit for the Sioux this season but they can get scoring from anyone at any time. The fact that Danny Kristo has zero goals and only 3 points this season is astonishing. There's no doubt that Kristo is going to get hot, let's just hope doesn't come at the Kohl Center.

Keep an eye out for UND forward Matt Frattin. A bruising forward, Frattin is averaging a point per game for UND this season and has a cannon.

COVERAGE

Friday nights game will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin and also the Fox College Sports Channel. It will be re-broadcast on the Wisconsin channel at 11 PM.

Saturdays game will be televised on your local My Network tv channel. Saturdays game will be re-broadcast at 10 PM on the Wisconsin channel.

POLLS

Wisconsin moves up two spots from #15 to #13 in the USCHO.com poll and two spots in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll up to #14.

North Dakota drops from #9 to #10 in both polls after a weekend split with Minnesota-Duluth.

INJURIES

Speculation that Gavin Hartzog is hurt but nothing has been mentioned by the school or in the newspapers. Zengerle like I mentioned banged his knee up but he should be good to go this weekend.

North Dakota has Carter Rowney injured and Derek Forbort and Andrew MacWilliam with illnesses. No idea on if any of them will be available at this point for the weekend.

NOTES

Eau Claire natives Jefferson Dahl (EC Memorial), and Derrick LaPoint (EC North) will face each other since the 2007 sectional championship game when LaPoints EC North squad beat Dahl's EC Memorial squad to advance to the WIAA State Tournament.

PREDICTIONS

North Dakota is a good hockey club with a ton of talent but Wisconsin is playing better hockey right now. Wisconsin will take advantage of home ice this weekend to take three points.

Friday Night: Tie, Wisconsin 3-North Dakota 3
Saturday Night: Win, Wiscnosin 5-North Dakota 2

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