As the Wisconsin men’s hockey team (11-11-2 WCHA, 14-15-3 overall) enters the last two series of the regular season, there comes a time to look back and look at where the team has come from, how they found their identity and most importantly who took hold of the reins and led the team to its current position.
However, as any of the UW players will state, this year’s team has never questioned who was in charge or who the leaders are.
The populous has voted, and the winner is… this year’s seniors.
Although this statement may not come as a shock, this year’s senior class of forwards Andy Brandt, Ross Carlson, Jake Dowell and Andrew Joudrey, defensemen Matt Olinger and Jeff Likens and goaltender Brian Elliott have been through a lot during their tenures at Wisconsin.
The class has won together, immortalized by last year’s national championship. They have also lost together, both on and off the ice, with the loss of teammates Robbie Earl and Ryan Suter to the NHL.
While the class of ’07 has had its share of ups-and-downs, they know that their legacy will be one of leadership and dedication.
“I think we have good leaders on this team, good captains you know Andrew Joudrey, Jeff Likens and Jake Dowell,” senior defenseman Matt Olinger said. “But it’s the other guys too; Andy Brandt has a big voice on the team, is always talking and keeping guys up. So I think, overall, this class has done a good job.”
It is obvious the seniors have played a huge role in holding Wisconsin together this season. After a six-game losing streak toward the end of the first half of the season, the Badgers were able to sweep highly-ranked North Dakota on the road, two games that could prove huge for UW as they scrape for points and try to possibly overtake North Dakota for one of the five home-ice playoff series.
Wisconsin has followed the example of its seniors throughout the season, and that mentality is finally being seen out on the ice every weekend.
“I think that these last four games have been really good for us. I think that the attitude of our seniors have reflected out there on the ice,” Carlson said. “We don’t give up, and we aren’t going to give up this season. We are going to keep on pursuing what we want to get to, and that is the top of the mountain and that is what we have worked for all season and we just have to keep it up.”
If the last four games are any indication, fans should be excited for the final two series of the regular season, both on the road, when UW takes on Michigan Tech and Minnesota-Duluth, both of which are in the cellar of the WCHA conference. Wisconsin is coming off of a three-point weekend against No. 4 St. Cloud State and a four-point series the weekend before against Alaska-Anchorage.
“We are putting ourselves right now in a good position and for the next few games for making it to the top,” Carlson said.
Whether Wisconsin makes it into the top-half of the WCHA will undoubtedly ride on the play of this senior class, and they know that when the time comes they are expected to step up.
“As seniors we have already been through it, we’ve won a championship,” Olinger said. “So it is important to show the younger guys what it takes at the end of the year.”
While most fans said goodbye to the ’07 senior class last weekend at the Kohl Center, the team isn’t looking to set anything in stone just yet.
“Hopefully we can make a legacy of our own [late in the season], by coming around and bringing back the Wisco tradition,” senior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Likens said.