Preview: Badger Showdown

Site: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 27-28, 2008
Participants: Lake Superior State, Harvard, Alabama-Huntsville, Wisconsin

Game 1: Lake Superior State vs. Harvard, 4:05 p.m. CT

Lake Superior State Lakers (4-8-6, 3-6-5-1 CCHA)
Head coach: Jim Roque
Leading scorers: Jr. Zac MacVoy (7-7–14), Sr. Troy Schwab (7-6–13)
Leading netminders: So. Brian Mahoney-Wilson (4-5-5, 2.43 GAA, .925 SV%)

Harvard Crimson (4-6-2, 4-3-2 ECAC Hockey)
Head coach: Ted Donato
Leading scorers: Fr. Alex Killorn (3-6–9), So. Michael Biega (2-5–7)
Leading netminder: Fr. Matt Hoyle (4-6-2, 2.65 GAA, .910 SV%)

Game 2: Alabama-Huntsville at Wisconsin, 7:05 p.m. CT

Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (2-9-1, 1-4-1 CHA)
Head coach: Danton Cole
Leading scorers: Fr. Cody Campbell (3-8–11), So. Andrew Coburn (2-6–8)
Leading netminder: So. Cameron Talbot (1-7-1, 2.61 GAA, .920 SV%)

Wisconsin Badgers (9-7-2, 7-5-2 WCHA)
Head coach: Mike Eaves
Leading scorers: Jr. Jamie McBain (3-16–19), So. Brendan Smith (5-9–14)
Leading netminder: Sr. Shane Connelly (8-5-2, 2.65 GAA, .914 SV%)

Tournament Outlook

As is often the case with this tournament, host and WCHA member Wisconsin has recruited representatives from three other leagues to fill out the Badger Showdown this season. Hoping to serve as the Badgers’ foil this year is the CHA’s Alabama-Huntsville, while the matinee Saturday will be contested between Harvard and Lake Superior, from ECAC Hockey and the CCHA, respectively.

Game 1 sees the Lakers face off against the Crimson. LSSU comes into the tournament on a seven-game winless streak during which Jim Roque’s charges have scored only 11 total goals. Perhaps the biggest problem on offense has been the power play, which is converting on just 8.6% of its opportunities, a figure which is next-to-last in men’s Division I. Brian Mahoney-Wilson has put up solid numbers in net, but needs help to lift LSSU out of its doldrums.

The Lakers’ opponent in the matinee hasn’t had much better luck lately. Harvard is 0-4-2 in its last six games, and got flattened by North Dakota, 10-1, in its next-to-last appearance on Dec. 5. The Crimson, like a number of teams this season, feature youth in net in the form of Matt Hoyle, who has figured in all but one of Harvard’s decisions this season. Underclassmen also dominate the scoresheet, with rookie Alex Killorn leading the team in points.

The nightcap pits Alabama-Huntsville against Wisconsin, and in a familiar refrain for teams playing in this tournament, the Chargers wish they were heading to Madison under better circumstances. In head coach Danton Cole’s second year at the UAH helm, the Chargers have just two wins and lost five straight games coming into the holiday break, scoring more than twice in none of those five. Cameron Talbot has played the lion’s share of minutes in net, and has an unenviable 1-7-1 record to show for it despite solid numbers in GAA and SV%.

Finally, Wisconsin began 2008-09 on a near-disastrous 0-6-1 skid, but has since lost just once and recovered move back above .500 and tie for third place in a tightly-packed edition of the WCHA. Currently ranked No. 14 nationally, UW has captured this tournament title nine times in its 19-year history, most recently in 2005. The Badgers are a solid all-around team, with the nation’s 10th-best scoring offense and a power play and penalty kill both in the country’s top 15 in efficiency. Team scoring leader Jamie McBain is sixth nationally in points by a defenseman, but fellow blueliners Ryan McDonagh and Cody Goloubef will miss the Showdown while at the World Junior Championship.

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