Kohl Center, Madison, Wis., Dec. 27-28
Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Ferris State, 4:30 p.m. CT Saturday
Union vs. Wisconsin, 7:30 p.m. CT Saturday
Consolation, 4:30 p.m. CT Sunday
Championship, 7:30 p.m. CT Sunday
Television: Both Wisconsin games will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin (DirecTV Ch. 642).
Ferris State (6-8-2)
Players to Watch: C Brett Smith, Sr. (8-10–18); RW Derek Nesbitt, Jr. (4-9–13); G Mike Brown, Jr. (6-8-2, 3.07, .889).
Notable: Ferris State featured a Hobey Baker Award finalist last season, and won the CCHA regular-season title, but has struggled this year. Still, the Bulldogs enter the tournament with a 3-0-2 mark in their last five. The team’s leading scorer, Brett Smith, was recently named CCHA Player of the Week.
Players to Watch: F Ryan Walter, Soph. (11-9–20); F Elias Godoy, Soph. (10-10–20);
Notable: Massachusetts-Lowell leading scorer, Ben Walter, is the son of long-time NHL forward Ryan Walter. Walter is tied for the national lead in power-play goals with seven. … The line of Mark Pandolfo, Brad King and Elias Godoy has connected for 10 goals in the last five games, while the rest of the River Hawks only have nine in the same span.
Players to Watch: F Scott Seney, Soph. (9-6–15); G Kris Mayotte, Soph. (5-5-3, 2.68, .907).
Notable: Union, playing under first-year head coach Nate Leaman, hasn’t won since Nov. 15, against Vermont. The Dutchmen are 1-4-2 since Nov. 7, after starting the season 4-0. Glenn Sanders, one of only two seniors on the Dutchmen, was lost for the season after six games after suffering a lacerated spleen. He later developed a tumor on his liver. Scott Seney, the team’s leading scorer, has four of Union’s seven game-winning goals.
No. 7 Wisconsin (11-3-4)
Players to Watch: F Ryan MacMurchy, Soph. (10-6–16); F Rene Bourque, Sr. (5-11–16); G Bernd Bruckler (9-3-4, 2.31, .916).
Notable: The Badgers will be without not only three players for the tournament, played outside Milwaukee for the first time in its 14-year history, but also coach Mike Eaves, who is leading the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship in Finland. Defensemen Ryan Suter and Jeff Likens and forward Jake Dowell, all freshmen, are playing for Eaves in the World Juniors. Assistant coach Troy Ward, formerly a head coach in the East Coast Hockey League, takes over for the tournament. … Wisconsin won its ninth Showdown title last year. The Badgers come into this game riding a program-record-tying 14-game unbeaten streak. … Dowell’s departure means John Eichelberger probably remains in the lineup. The senior, who has played just 10 games, notched his first two points of the season in the Badgers’ last game, a 3-2 win over Minnesota State, with two pretty setups.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves: “When you’re playing well in a period, you don’t want that period to stop. Well, that period has ended for us now. So coming back after break, we were going to have to start rebuilding the momentum again. That’ll be our task. Whether I’m here or not, we’ll have to get that going. I have no disillusions about leaving because I feel so confident in the fact that Troy Ward is here and coach Bill Howard is here and Mark LeRose, so we leave our team in very capable hands.”
Union coach Nate Leaman: “We know [Wisconsin] has been the hottest team in college hockey. … After the way we played in New Hampshire (9-2 loss), we need to redeem ourselves on the national scene.”
Eaves: “It’s a huge opportunity [to play] for [the players with three others leaving for the World Juniors]. I think one of the strengths of our team is our depth, especially on the defense position. And for the guys that haven’t played there as much, we spoke a few days ago about, when you come back, this is a big opportunity. I want to hear how well you did and that you gave yourself a chance to be in the lineup.”
Leaman: “It’s tough because we had a longer break than a lot of other people, but as a coach, you’re relying on the fact that the guys all did the workouts you gave them and have been trying to stay in shape as much as possible. And then it’s my job in three practices to get us going in a game as much as possible.”
Analysis: Wisconsin rarely loses this tournament, and the field certainly has to be to its liking this time. The team is losing three players and its coach, so it shouldn’t get complacent, but the Badgers should have little trouble with this field and breaking the program’s all-time longest unbeaten streak.