Wisconsin will struggle to find offense without Zengerle

Wisconsin lost its most valuable skater, Mark Zengerle, to a broken left index finger suffered while killing a penalty in Saturday night’s 3-0 home loss to Colorado College.

Zengerle will be out five to six weeks, according to Andy Johnson of Bucky’s Fifth Quarter, who spoke with Zengerle after the game.

The Badgers’ sputtering offense takes a big hit without him in the lineup. Zengerle, who recorded 50 points last season and 92 points in 84 career games, leads Wisconsin with six points this season in six games.

Zengerle isn’t just a scorer. He showed his gritty side when he was injured, hitting the ice to block a shot when the puck broke his finger. But the Badgers have enough players like that. The question is where Wisconsin plans to find offense because the Badgers offense went through Zengerle.

He assisted all three power-play goals out of just a league-low 15 power-play opportunities this season. Zengerle also assisted on two of Michael Mersch’s team-leading four goals.

Only 10 players have had a hand in Wisconsin’s 11 goals (tied for a league-low). Guys like Mersch, Tyler Barnes and Joseph LaBate need to step up in this time of need or the Badgers will fall way behind in the WCHA standings.

More offense is needed because Wisconsin has relied too much on goalie Joel Rumpel to this point. The sophomore has a .919 saves percentage and has held opponents to three or less goals in four games this season.

SCSU proves it will be a factor in the WCHA race

Friday night in Denver, SCSU shut out a Pioneers team that scored five goals in each of its first four games and found enough offense with two key forwards – Ben Hanowski and David Morley – back in St. Cloud.

Most importantly, the Huskies have done what it takes to compete for a league title: take three or more points at home and get a split on the road.

The offense is clicking – the Huskies have scored 3.86 goals per game, second most in the WCHA. The goaltending is there – Ryan Faragher is stopping 92.6 percent of shots faced and only allowed two goals in four games between Oct. 20 and Nov. 2. He will bounce back after being pulled in Saturday’s loss.

The SCSU offense will receive an enormous boost when Hanowski returns and freshman Joey Benik’s broken fibula heals. Both were on the Huskies’ projected top line this preseason.

Hanowski sustained an upper-body injury when his head slammed against the boards on a hit by MSU’s Eriah Hayes on the first shift of the second period last Friday. He had three goals and two assists through four games and a period.

Michigan Tech, Minnesota cannot afford poor starts

I mentioned in the picks blog last week how important a good start would be for Michigan Tech. That would have set a positive tone in MacInnes Arena where the rowdy student section is right on top of the ice and could affect Nebraska-Omaha, which hadn’t yet played in another team’s building.

That didn’t happen. Tech finished the first period with only two shots on goal and spent too much time killing penalties to get anything going, offensively.

Saturday night in Mankato, Minnesota couldn’t have been more flat in the first period.

The Gophers were able to come back and tie the game in the second period, losing on a late MSU goal, but the game could’ve had a much different rhythm if Minnesota hadn’t spent half the game playing catch-up.

Most times the Gophers touched the puck, the offensive threat would end with a dump-in and a line change. Other times, they’d get impatient and ice it or force passes the Mavericks would intercept.

In contrast, MSU dictated play with 11 shots by the midway point of the first period and a 17-5 shots advantage at the 15-minute mark.

Because of the league’s parity, no team can afford poor starts like that.