MADISON, WI — When a collegiate team participates in an international scrimmage, it is a chance for each side to get a glimpse of a different style of hockey. It is, as Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said, a friendly match where teams can work on various aspects of their play.
And it is an opportunity for players who do not usually have the chance to receive valuable ice time.
Wisconsin’s scrimmage with the French Olympic Team was a showcase for one such player in particular, senior goaltender Mark Baranczyk.
“I will look back and always remember this,” Baranczyk said. “I’m sure I’ve got plenty of pictures for my family.”
Baranczyk, a walk-on who had played just twice before — in Wisconsin’s 9-4 victory against Michigan Tech in the first round of the 2000 WCHA playoffs and in another international scrimmage — got his first career start in net for the Badgers and recorded 27 saves as Wisconsin skated to a 2-2 draw with the French Olympians.
“I’m sure it was a great thrill for him,” Sauer said. “He hasn’t played a full game in probably about four or five years. He was thrilled when I told him he was playing yesterday and I thought he did an excellent job.” “It was nice to see what I could do, to play a whole game start to finish,” Baranczyk said.
Baranczyk was originally slated to play the second and third periods, after freshman Bernd Bruckler started the game, but the plan was changed after junior netminder Scott Kabotoff suffered a strained knee ligament in the first period last Friday’s 2-2 tie against St. Cloud State.
According to Sauer, Kabotoff will not play this weekend when the Badgers take on Alaska-Anchorage. With Bruckler set to play two games this weekend, Sauer elected to give Baranczyk the start Tuesday.
“He deserved to start,” Sauer said. “He deserved to get his name mentioned in the starting lineup. I’m sure it was a great thrill for he and his folks. He has worked hard everyday, he is out there everyday in practice.”
The team had been petitioning for Baranczyk to get the nod in net.
“With the exception of maybe four or five of the younger guys I think everybody on the team in the last week and a half came up to me and said, ‘You’ve got to give Mark the start,’” Sauer said. “It was a group decision.”
“(Andy) Wheeler initiated it a long time ago. I don’t know, maybe even a month ago he started thinking about it,” senior center Kent Davyduke said. “We all wanted that to happen. He has been here five years. He is always out there. He always has a smile on his face. He loves playing hockey.”
Baranczyk played very well Tuesday, holding the French Olympians scoreless on 17 shots in the game’s first two periods.
“Originally I told Mark, ‘I’ll give you a couple of periods and then see what happens,’” Sauer said. “Going into the third period he’s got the shutout and there is no way you take him out. You give him the opportunity to finish the game.”
“He surprised me, I’m going to be honest with you,” Davyduke said. “He did really well. Right down to his rebounds it seems like were really good tonight. For a guy that hasn’t played that is incredible to me.”
Meanwhile, Davyduke tallied a second-period goal and added another just 30 seconds into the third to give Wisconsin a 2-0 lead.
The French turned it up a notch in the game’s final period, however, taking 12 mostly high-quality shots, and solving Baranczyk twice. Oliver Coqueux put the French on the board at 2:29 in the third with a pretty backhand that hit the inside of the post on its way to the net.
About five minutes later, Baranczyk stoned Guillaume Besse on an attempted wraparound, but the puck fluttered into the air in front of the net and Julian Marcos snagged the puck out of midair with the blade of his stick and directed it into the net to even the score.
“Both the goals that they scored were nice goals,” Sauer said. Baranczyk, however, made some sparkling saves in the games final minutes to preserve the tie.
He also benefited from two posts.
“I gave them a kiss,” Baranczyk said.
The French team did not match the stereotype of a world-class European team. Typically, such teams display incredible speed and puck-moving abilities. The French team, though not deficient in these qualities, was more concerned with playing a tight-checking style that kept the Badgers from getting into a flow offensively.
The French team did, however, display a particular facet that is customary for European teams.
“You notice they never dump the puck,” Sauer said. “They don’t give you the puck very much. International hockey, they don’t give you the puck, they don’t dump it in and forecheck, they go back and regroup. That is why the shots are a little bit skewed because we didn’t have the puck as much as we would in a normal game.”
The French team was missing some key players from its roster, which includes UMass-Lowell’s Laurent Meunier, Yorick Treille and Bapiste Amar.
“There are five or six of their players that are not here,” Sauer said. “The guys from their team that are missing are guys that are still playing the elite league in Europe, and they have one guy in the NHL, I think.”