For some all it takes is one breakout game to propel a player to the next level. Tonight may have been that night for freshman defenseman Frankie Simonelli.
The 18 year old out of Bensenville, Illinois had his most productive game as a Badger recording a goal and two assists in a 5-1 Wisconsin victory. The Badgers have now won four in a row.
Simonelli was thrust into an expanded role, including time on the power play Thursday night with John Ramage off playing with Team USA at the World Junior Championship.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves sees the progression in his young defenseman. "(Simonelli) got a little time on the power play tonight. When you’re on the power play and you have a little production that gives you confidence. He’s got some swagger and confidence with the puck right now and that’s a great thing to have. ”
Another Badgers starting to come into his own is Podge Turnbull. The senior center has found a home between freshmen wingers Michael Mersch and Tyler Barnes and buried his sixth and seventh goals of the season in the victory.
Turnbull while very talented, has been inconsistent over his four year career in Madison. After the game he noted that game is starting to open up for him. "Coach Eaves and Coach Butters pulled me aside and said ‘We need you.’ I knew that but it was one of those things that I had to completely understand and that last sit that I had really opened my eyes to game and how I needed to play."
Two other players that have taken criticism for inconsistent play over the past two seasons came to play tonight as well. Patrick Johnson played a hard nosed game throwing his body at anyone who crossed his path. Johnson got the Badgers on the board to start the game only 73 seconds in to the contest when he tipped a Simonelli shot past UMass goalie Jeff Teglia.
Derek Lee, the other player who hasn't always played up to his capabilities showed flashes of why the coaching staff was so enamored with him when he was recruited out of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. Lee had an assist on the first goal of the game and showed burst and confidence with the puck that he's lacked since becoming a Badger.
Senior goalie Scott Gudmandson played another strong game in goal for Wisconsin. While only being seriously tested a hand full of times, Gudmandson looked confident and quick all night. His only blemish came on a great effort from UMass forward T.J. Syner was able to sneak between Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz and he buried it on the stick side for Massachusetts only goal.
Badger freshman forward Sean Little collected his first collegiate point Thursday night when he assisted on a goal scored by his older brother Ryan. Coming out of the corner, Sean Little left a drop pass for defenseman Justin Schultz who was coming down the side boards. Schultz found Ryan Little out front with a beautiful pass and the elder little was able to bury the puck for his fourth goal of the season.
Wisconsin is back in action Friday night against UMass with a seven o'clock game time. The game once again will be broadcast live on FSN WI with the replay on the Wisconsin Channel.
1:16-Wisconsin-Patrick Johnson (Frankie Simonelli, Derek Lee)
16:28-Wisconsin-Podge Turnbull (Tyler Barnes, Michael Mersch)
2:40-Wisconsin-Ryan Little (Justin Schultz, Sean Little)
6:59-UMass-T.J. Syner (Daniel Hobbs)
9:53-Wisconsin-Simonelli (Craig Johnson, Barnes)
14:05-Wisconsin-Turnbull (Eric Springer, Simonelli)
Wisconsin (Gudmandson)-19 shots, 18 saves
UMass (Teglia)-20 shots, 15 saves
UMass (Dainton)-14 shots, 14 saves
Photo courtesy of Melody Hasse
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