Thursday, January 6, 2011

Canisius Week

This weeks preview finds the Wisconsin Badgers set to host their last non conference series of season. The Canisius Golden Griffins of the Atlantic Hockey conference roll into to Madison on a weekend Wisconsin honors 2010 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Blake Geoffrion.

One of the biggest things holding the Badgers back this season has been the ability to net scoring from secondary players. We've talked about it on this site multiple times. Those secondary players stepped up for the Badgers last weekend. Podge Turnbull who looks like he's taken his game to the next level had a huge three goal weekend.

Derek Lee, a player who like Turnbull has had a tough time finding the consistency needed to be a productive player in the WCHA had a very strong weekend for the Badgers. Lee had three assists but besides the points played some hard nosed hockey and looked like he might have turned a corner.

Freshman defenseman Frankie Simonelli saw his role expanded last weekend with John Ramage gone for the World Junior Championships and seized the opportunity with a great weekend. There's no doubt that the experience Simonelli got playing college teams last season with the NTDP has carried over into his play this season. Simonelli's 4 points last weekend were a career high.

Scott Gudmandson has been playing very well this season but this weekend Brett Bennett absolutely needs to see some action. Bennett hasn't played since late November and is a very capable goaltender. I have no problem with Gudmandson carrying the majority of the play for the rest of the season but I hope Eaves doesn't let Bennett rot.

It's been thirteen games since freshman Mark Zengerle scored a goal for the Badgers. Obviously Zengerle's ability to find open teammates and set up goals is off the charts but there is no doubt he's starting to get frustrated at not finding the back of the net. I think Zengerle ends the drought this weekend.

Don't look now but Ryan Little is tied for sixth on the team in goals scored right now. When the rumors started to swirl about Little being moved to forward for this season I think most of us really questioned how effective he would be. It's safe to say he's exceeded expectations this season and has really made Eaves look like a genius.

Canisius is led up front by a trio of senior forwards in Cory Conacher, Vincent Scarsella, and Eric Rex. Conacher, no doubt their top player is averaging a point per game and had 53 points last season for the Golden Griffins.

For the most part this season Canisius has gone with go-to goaltender Dan Morrison. Morrison has very respectable numbers with a .916 save percentage and a 3.03 GAA. Morrison has played in 15 of the 18 games so far this year. I would expect to see Morrison both games this weekend.

As usual, one of the biggest keys for Canisius this weekend is to stay out of the box. The Badgers are second in the country in PP percentage at 27.7 percent. Canisius is 13th in the country at killing penalties with an 85% kill rate.

COVERAGE

There is no television this weekend but there is a web stream that you can purchase off bigtennetwork.com for a fee.

POLLS

Wisconsin has moved up from #15 to #13 in both the USCHO.com and USA Hockey/USA Today poll.

INJURIES


Updated: I forgot to note that Jefferson Dahl got banged up last weekend. According to Andy Baggot he will not play this weekend. Also, John Ramage gets the weekend off to rest after the WJC.

PREDICTIONS

Canisius is far from a push over but this is another weekend where Wisconsin needs to acquire victories. Wisconsin holds the superior lineup and I'm going with another sweep.

Friday night: Wisconsin 6, Canisius 2
Saturday night: Wisconsin 3, Canisus 1

chuckschwartz@live.com
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