The 2008-09 season was a wild one for Wisconsin. Everyone thought if the Badgers could get past their tough opening schedule, they’d be OK.
Everyone was right, for the most part. Wisconsin started off the season 0-6-1, but picked it up enough to end up tied for third in the league, gain home ice and win a trip to the Xcel Energy Center. However, their early failings hurt them in the long run, keeping them out of the NCAA tournament.
This year, the Badgers get a few more weeks of rest than everybody else — their first action is Oct. 16-17 against Colorado College, some mid-season excitement to look forward to (an early February date with Michigan outdoors at Camp Randall Stadium) and the return of Ben Street, who went down just four games into last season with a knee injury.
Street’s return also means the Badgers are an “upperclassmen” team (in that the majority of players are either juniors or seniors) for the first time in a few years — a fact that coach Mike Eaves enjoys.
“Since ’05-06, I think this is the first time we’ve got an upperclassmen team, so that’s kind of new and different for the coaching staff, going on the ice with an older group of guys,” he said. “You can almost see their experience on the ice in practice, so that’s a nice thing to have.”
Offensively, the Badgers are hoping for good things out of one man — Street, who has rehabbed his way back to health and is as strong as ever, according to Eaves.
“He is actually physically as strong as he’s ever been, in terms of [his conditioning],” he said. “He just brings back that experience to the locker room and already you see him going around to all the freshmen and walking them through what’s going on a little bit, and you can’t put a price on that.”
Besides hoping for production from Street, Wisconsin will also look to sophomore Derek Stepan as well as seniors Andy Bohmbach, Michael Davies, Blake Geoffrion and John Mitchell to put up similar numbers to last year.
On the Blue Line
Offensively, the Badgers lost a big weapon on the blue line in WCHA player of the tear and team-leading scorer Jamie McBain. His 37 points will be hard to replace.
However, defensively, the Badgers retain the same core defensemen from the year before. Plus, many of those guys are now a bit older and wiser — things that tend to help defensemen out the most in the league and hockey in general. Among the players returning for more are juniors Cody Golubef, Ryan McDonagh and Brendan Smith and sophomore Jake Gardiner — all four of whom all had double-digit point totals.
In the Crease
If the Badgers have a decently large question mark anywhere, it lies within the crease. Gone is Shane Connelly, and in to fight for his spot are junior Scott Gudmandson, junior Boston University transfer Brett Bennett and even perhaps freshman Mitch Thompson.
“It’s really competitive and we’re looking for someone to right now really step up here in these weeks that we’re together and say that they’re going to be the guy,” said Eaves.