No. 12 UW men’s hockey team set for WCHA home opener

first_imgAJ MACLEAN/Herald photoFans can welcome WCHA hockey back to the Kohl Center this weekend as the No. 12 Badger men’s hockey team hosts Alaska-Anchorage in a two-game series.For the Seawolves (2-2-0, 0-0-0 WCHA), this will be their first conference action of the year. They recently split a series with rival Alaska-Fairbanks, a team that went into Minnesota and took three of four points earlier this season.The Badgers (2-1-1, 1-0-1 WCHA) came home from a series at St. Cloud State last weekend with three league points after a tie and a win. They currently sit in second place in the WCHA behind Minnesota.These teams last met in the WCHA playoffs last season, when the Seawolves took the Badgers to three games in the opening round at the Coliseum. Each game was won by a single goal as the Badgers barely squeaked by Alaska-Anchorage into the WCHA Frozen Five.”When you battle in a playoff series, you can end someone’s season, and we ended theirs last year,” sophomore forward Joe Pavelski said. “So, they’re going to want a little revenge, and I think guys have to realize that.”In a match-up marked by physical play, that revenge may be about more than just points on the board. In the regular-season series at the Kohl Center last year, the Badgers and Seawolves scuffled several times, resulting in 11 roughing calls and one 10-minute misconduct. The teams cleaned up their act a little more in the playoffs, but fans should expect a blue-collar style of play.Besides physical play, the Badgers can also expect solid goaltending from UAA. Senior John DeCaro, who took over for Nathan Lawson in the Seawolves’ Oct. 15 game against Vermont and has played ever since. DeCaro has given up only three goals in almost seven periods of play. He is second in the conference with a 1.34 goals against average.DeCaro, however, will have to contend with a Badger offense led by the line of Pavelski, Robbie Earl and senior captain Adam Burish. Earl leads the team with five points on the season while Pavelski leads the team in goals with three, including two from last Saturday’s win over St. Cloud State.”I think every team better look at and say with that group, they better have their best people on the ice when they play against them because they are very talented,” head coach Mike Eaves said of his talented forwards. “When they work hard, they’re as good as anybody.”Last season, the Badgers seemed to get scoring from almost any line at any time. While the team didn’t have any players near the conference leaders in scoring, Wisconsin was loaded with scorers in the middle of the pack. This season, the other lines have yet to produce as effectively as last season, but there may still be hope.”I think it’s going to come from everybody eventually,” said Eaves. “On Friday night, Jake Dowell’s line was the line that stepped up. The next night it was Pavelski’s line. If we get all cylinders firing, we think every line can contribute.”Until every line starts contributing, the Badgers will continue to rely on Pavelski, Earl and Burish for offense. Eaves continues to experiment with different looks on some of the lines, while the top line has been together since last season.”We’ve been with each other for over a year now. We kind of know each other,” Earl said. “But we’re just expected to do our job, and our job is to put up points, and I think just create a lot of offense and cause havoc for the [other] team.”Wisconsin may not need a lot of offense if goaltender Brian Elliott continues to play as well as he has of late. Elliott had 35 saves in a tie with St. Cloud State last Friday night, and he currently sits third in the WCHA with a .937 save percentage. In his last five conference matches, Elliot has gone 4-0-1 with a 1.18 goals-against average.With goaltending like that, and an offense that seems ready to break through, the Seawolves will have a tough weekend on their hands. The Badgers have won nine of their last 12 contests with UAA, and they look to continue that success this weekend.last_img read more