Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Out For Tiger Blood: CC Playoff Week

At the end of the day, day my momma told me don't let no one break me, let no one break me
At end of the day, day, nobody, nobody, ever could stop me, ever could stop me
At the end of the day, day you can't regret it if you were trying, if you were trying
At the end of the day, day I'm walking with a heart of a lion

KiD CuDi-"Heart of a Lion"

The current version of the Wisconsin men's hockey team has been playing with a playoff mentality for the past few weeks. This weekend, it's real. The Badgers open up the first round of the WCHA playoffs on the road in Colorado Springs where they are looking to draw tiger blood from Colorado College.

Last weekend the Tigers were in Madison where they were able to steal a victory on Friday night from the Badgers. The Badgers bounced back on Saturday and were able to salvage a split in the final regular season series of the season. Wisconsin played arguably their best 120 minutes of hockey since mid-January and it should go a long way towards building momentum for the upcoming series.

The Badgers were able to get consistent goaltending from both Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmandson over the weekend and as I've been preaching all-season, this team is only going to go as far as those two will take them. In Eaves press conference this week he indicated that they have yet to make a decision on who is going to be playing between the pipes this weekend for the Badgers. It wouldn't shock me to see both Bennett and Gudmandson this weekend.

Patrick Johnson is playing the best hockey of his four year career in Madison and has five goals in his past five games. The senior forward from Madison has been ignited since joining a line with fellow senior Podge Turnbull and freshman right winger Tyler Barnes. That unit has been undoubtedly Wisconsin's most successful trio the past few weeks.

Sophomore defenseman Justin Schultz continues to find the back of the bet for the Badgers. His goal on Saturday night was his 18th of the season, leaving him only one goal behind Sean Hill for the Wisconsin record for goals scored by a defenseman. Schultz's 46 points this season have him tied for 9th in the country in scoring and six behind Brendan Smith's 52 points from last season.

It was apparent the talent that Colorado College brings to the table with their top end players. The Tigers top line of the Schwartz brothers and Steven Szhultz were consistent threats every time they were on the ice. Containing those three could go a long ways towards a successful weekend for the Badgers.

One player that was especially quiet for CC over the weekend was the teams leading scorer Tyler Johnson. One of the reasons he was so quiet was because he didn't play on Saturday night. It's presumed that Johnson, who is nursing an injury sat out as a precaution with CC's WCHA finish already finalized by virtue of their Friday night victory.

The Tigers have been rotating goalies for the past few weeks but to anyone who watched the series it was clear who the Tigers go to man will be when their season on the line. While Sophomore Joe Howe looked confident challenging the shooters, freshman Josh Thorimbert seemed to be fighting the puck and shaky on multiple occasions on Saturday night.

One of the biggest keys for the Badgers this weekend will be getting pucks to the net no matter who is between the pipes. Wisconsin has struggled the second of the season getting shots through traffic to the goal. Neither one of CC's goaltenders are all-world so if Wisconsin can get the puck to the net with players crashing for rebounds it could be a very successful weekend.

COVERAGE

There is no television this weekend but both games are available for purchase via webcast on B2Live. They usually charge around $7 per game.

POLLS

The only poll that matters right now, the PWR has the Badgers at 23. Going 2-0 this weekend will put the Badgers back on the bubble for an at large bid.

INJURIES

It looks like Joe Faust is in again this week for Eric Springer who has a separated shoulder. No word on if Springer is making the trip or not.

PREDICTIONS

Both teams are in desperation mode and the team that doesn't make it to St. Paul can effectively bust out their golf clubs because their season is over. It's going to be a phenomenal weekend of hockey between two good hockey clubs. It may be the homer in me but I think Saturday night's performance was just what the doctor ordered to get the ball rolling for the Badgers.

Friday Night: Wisconsin 4, Colorado College 1
Saturday Night: Wisconsin 3, Colorado College 2

chuckschwartz(at)live.com
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