Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wisconsin could be a dangerous team

A lot has been made recently about the results so far of the 2010-2011 Wisconsin hockey team. As it stands right now, the badgers have a 7-6-3 record which isn't bad considering they've played the second hardest schedule in the country so far according to KRACH.

But many have pointed out that most of those wins have come against weak opponents (Holy Cross 1, Alabama-Huntsville 2, Michigan Tech 2, and Michigan State 1). While results against "tournament teams" or teams ranked in the top 16 or so in the PWR the Badgers are 1-6-3 (W/T vs Minn, L vs BU, L/T vs Denver, L/L vs UND, L/L vs UMD, T vs Michigan).

Evaluating the results for me is not so cut and dry. First taking a look at the games against the so called "weak" opponents. To go a flawless 6-0 against them is not easy. There are no easy wins in college hockey and certainly no easy wins in the WCHA no matter who you are playing. Past Wisconsin teams have struggled at times against inferior opponents for whatever reason.

This years Badger squad seems to be taking care of business when they need to take care of business. And considering that 16 out of the last 22 games the Badgers play this season are against "non tournament" teams, our continued success against these type of teams is vital.

I'm also not worried about our results against the "tournament" teams. The record looks significantly worse than how Wisconsin played in those contests. I'm not making excuses but Wisconsin had two goals that were waived off in the season opening 1 goal loss vs Boston University that replay showed were clear goals (replay was for tv only, not used in the game). Wisconsin also played well enough to acquire a point or two vs #1 ranked Minnesota-Duluth a few weeks ago. Again, not making excuses but that non call that directly led to a UMD scoring chance cost the Badgers a point. Making those two losses into ties puts the Badgers at 1-4-5 through that stretch of hell which isn't excellent but looks a lot better than 1-6-3.

One more factor to take into consideration this year is the maturation process of our young players. According to unofficial statistics, Wisconsin is the second youngest team in the WCHA in terms of age (not graduation year). It's no secret to Badger fans that we've been consistently trotting out 6 and sometimes 7 freshmen on any given night.

Those young players have been gaining valuable experience so far this season and we're starting to see some of them blossom into very nice hockey players. You've already seen what Mark Zengerle can do and Tyler Barnes and Michael Mersch have shown flashes of brilliance. As they acquire more ice time, Jefferson Dahl, Jason Clark (Pictured), and Frankie Simonelli all look much improved from opening weekend.

What I'm trying to say Badger fans, is that I honestly believe this team has the ability to do some damage this season. Are we going to win the MacNaughton Cup? No, we're not. But we have the ability to finish in the top 4-5 in the conference, make some noise at the final five, and if we get a break or two it he NCAA tournament, maybe make another run at the Frozen Four, something that skeptics coming into the season would have fallen off their chairs laughing at.

Who knows, maybe the skeptics are still laughing, but I will say one thing, Mike Eaves deserves a pat on the back for the job he's done the past 5 months. Losing 7 seniors, and 4 underclassmen to NHL contracts, as well as both assistant coaches yet still keeping this program not only afloat but primed to make some noise? Well played sir, well played indeed.

Photo courtesy of Melody Hasse
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