After being shut out of the NCAA tournament in 2008-09, last year Wisconsin team was determined to get back on to the national scene. The Badgers accomplished that in fine form by not only making the tournament, but by going all the way to Detroit and the Frozen Four as the league’s sole representative.
This year, the Badgers may be in for a rougher ride. Even though they kept their goaltending intact, both their offense and defense were hit hard by graduation and early departures. As a result, Wisconsin is in for a fairly steep learning curve at the beginning of the season.
However, it’s not anything new for coach Mike Eaves, who saw the same thing four short years ago.
“It’s easier this time around,” he said. “We lost 10 kids in ’06, we lost 11 kids this year and they’re a big chunk of your team. I think the reality set back in ’06 that this kind of thing is going to happen and when you’re successful and you have good players, it’s kind of the way that our world is right now.
“So, you can do one of two things: You can get frustrated and whine and cry about it or you can say, you know, it’s just like the seasons of life,” Eaves continued. “Right now, we’re back in spring and we’ll move through summer and autumn and winter with these kids and by these kids’ junior, senior year, hopefully we’ll be back in a position where we can be where we were at the end of last year.”
A Frozen Four at least every four years? That’s certainly a way to look at a brighter future.
The Badgers were hit the hardest offensively in the offseason, losing their top four scorers (who combined for 208 total points) and seven of their top eight overall. As a result, they’ll be looking to a lot of new, young faces to step up.
“You’re hoping guys that have a history of scoring coming in will be able to step in and help us out, guys like Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes up front, and we’re hoping they can do that,” Eaves said.
On the blue line
Defensively, the Badgers lost three key players in Cody Goloubef, Ryan McDonagh and Brendan Smith. However, an upside is that they still have some upperclassmen in players like Jake Gardiner and Craig Johnson and some much-improved sophomores to help lead the way for the new guys.
In the crease
If there’s one place the Badgers are glad they didn’t lose anybody, it’s in arguably the biggest position of all — goaltender. The team returns both senior netminders in Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmandson.
“We’re hoping they play well right away and they can make up for some of our usual mistakes so we can hang around in games and maybe they can steal a game now and then,” Eaves said. “Having those two senior goaltenders could be very key for us.”