Monday, November 03, 2008

Badger Men's hockey finally gets a win!

The men's hockey team finally came away with a win Saturday night in North Dakota beating the Sioux 5-2. Of course, the game wasn't televised, so I can't tell you too much about the win other than that all the scoring came in the third period which is HUGE for the team, as the third period has been absolutely sad in the prior 7 games.

And while the win, in such a convincing fashion, no less, is exciting, Friday's game couldn't have been a better example of the many problems with this team.

Friday's game was on the NHL Network and was just plain painful to watch. The Badgers gave up not one but two goals on horrific puck handling and lazy play in their own zone.

The loss Friday contributed to the worststart to a season for the Badgers in the modern era. It's also the first time they started 0-5 in the WCHA since 1975.

There's no way to further stress how absolutely abominable the Badgers' passing and puck handling has been. These are basic skills the individual players learned in pee wee and it's ridiculous to see a team at this level struggle to put passes together in succession. Last Saturday in Madison against the Gophers, late in the game, our group decided we would stand up and yell when the team put together two clean, successive passes. It didn't happen.

Friday night they allowed 45 shots on goal, leaving poor Shane Connelly alone to face the barrage a few times in the night. They managed a measley 22 SOG themselves. The Badgers had the lead twice in the night, but squandered it both times and once again gave up the game in the third period.

It's so bad, that prior to Saturday, the Badgers have held the lead 10 times this season - 4 times in the final period - and had not gotten a win. It was so bad that Friday night, coach Mike Eaves reportedly asked the team if they were afraid to win.

Friday night, Ryan McDonough was the goat on each of the last two UND goals, just plain turning the puck over in the Badgers zone and allowing the Sioux an easy shot on goal and fanning a clear that left the puck open for UNDs game-winning goal.

Any thoughts of getting a game-tier went out the window when Blake Geoffrion committed an incredibly stupid, obviously frustrated slashing penalty.

The Badgers are in a funk, no doubt about it. Michael Davies, the Badger with the most career goals, has been so bad he's been called out in local press and demoted from first line to fourth. And how do you think he responded? According to the guys over at 60 min, he basically has been hanging out in the neutral zone, cherry picking and waiting for the play to come to him. Nice initiative there Davies. According to that link, Davies has just 2 SOG in the last 3 games and just 13 SOG overall.

The new star of the team appears to be Tom Gorowsky (the total man-crush of the guys at 60min, ala Brewerfan's Russell Branyan)- a perpetual bench-rider earlier in his career, reportedly due to less-than-stellar skating, Gorowsky has stepped up and on Saturday was promoted to the top line along with Andy Bombach, in part because those three accounted for more than a third of the Badgers' shots Friday night.

The up-side is that Saturday's win was a bold statement, hopefully signifying that this team has chosen to actually show up and play to their potential. Despite what they've shown so far, this isn't a bad team. According to this article in a ND paper, the UND coach thought Wisconsin was the most complete team they've played so far this season. (from 60min). They're scoring goals - something that was a problem at times last season. In fact, Saturday night, thanks to some Sioux penalties, they scored 3 goals in 1:21.

I've not been a huge supporter of Shane Connelly, but he should get major recognition for his play over the weekend. The Badger defense allowed him to be absolutely shellacked for 5 periods over 2 days and if it weren't for his stellar play in the 1st and 2nd on Saturday, the Badgers would have had a much larger whole to climb out of in the 3rd.

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