December 8, 2004
Forward Thinking

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

Bernd Brückler has a 2.32 GAA and a .915 save percentage for the Badgers this season.

National TV Schedule
This week's schedule

CHA Mid-Year Review

If you talk to Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, don’t bother to ask him how much those back-to-back losses to Minnesota in November hurt, or which of the Badgers’ games thus far has meant the most in earning the team the number two ranking in the nation's polls (No. 3 in the INCH Power Rankings). Eaves, who stresses focusing on the present and the future with his players, might not recall any of what’s come before.

Take last Saturday’s home game with Minnesota Duluth as an example. The Badgers had been out-played on Friday but came away with a 3-2 win. After 40 minutes on Saturday, the story was much the same inside the Kohl Center, with the Bulldogs dominating play, and the Badgers clinging to a 2-2 tie.

In the home team’s dressing room, Eaves chose not to focus on what had happened in the first two periods, and didn’t offer advice on new breakout patterns or defensive schemes. Instead, he reminded his players of author Eckhart Tolle’s words in the popular motivational book The Power of Now.

When 20 more minutes had elapsed off the game clock, the Badgers stood as 3-2 winners again, with four WCHA points earned despite their coach admitting that the third period on Saturday was the only time they out-played the Duluthians all weekend.

“We were living in the past instead of living in the moment,” Eaves said. “In that last period, we learned a lesson about being in the moment and letting the past go. By doing that, we were able to put some hay in the barn for ourselves, which is going to be important at the end of the year.”

Wisconsin’s team success thus far comes from a lineup that seems firmly focused on the future as well. All-league goalie Bernd Brückler is the only senior playing regularly, while sophomores Jake Dowell and Robbie Earl, along with freshman Joe Pavelski, are providing the bulk of the team’s offense.

It’s no secret that the WCHA front office likes it when its two biggest hockey programs, Minnesota and Wisconsin, are in the running for the league title. In that sense, the 2004-05 season may be shaping up to be a league-hierarchy dream, with the Badgers and Golden Gophers hold down the top two poll spots in the nation. With the Badgers clearly the favorite in their next 10 games (series at Minnesota State, Mankato, at St. Cloud State, vs. Alaska Anchorage, at Notre Dame and holiday tournament games versus Yale and either Ferris State or Clarkson) it’s conceivable that the Badgers could be on a 13-game win streak when the Gophers come to Madison in early February.

If that happens, don’t bother to ask Eaves if he’s hoping to avenge the two losses in Minneapolis in November. With the future firmly on his mind, he might not remember back that far.


Bulldog Woes Easy to Pinpoint – To understand why Minnesota Duluth has gone from being the favorite for the WCHA title to battling to stay in the hunt for home ice in less than half the season, one needed to only watch the first 20 minutes of the Bulldogs’ 3-2 loss in Madison last weekend.

At the 12:40 mark of UMD’s 16th game of the campaign, Bulldogs senior forward T.J. Caig, who was expected to be one of the team’s consistent sources of offense, scored his first goal of the season. And with :00.6 remaining in that same first period, the Bulldogs saw their only lead of the weekend disappear after an ill-advised personnel move led to a Badgers goal.

With the period’s final seconds ticking away, the Bulldog players decided to change lines for some reason, springing Wisconsin’s Robbie Earl and Adam Burish on a 2-on-1 break. Earl carried the puck into the Bulldog zone and was thwarted by the Bulldogs defense, but the puck squirted to Burish who slapped it past UMD goalie Issac Reichmuth to tie the game at 2-2. Wisconsin won 3-2 on Earl’s third period goals, dropping the Bulldogs to 5-5-1 in conference play.

“That was a bad line change, and just a bad goal,” said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin afterwards. “You’ve got to have some clock awareness, and that wasn’t a good decision.”

The sudden lack of offense is hurting the Bulldogs' chances to stay in the upper half of the WCHA. While they averaged better than four goals per game last year with Hobey Baker winner Junior Lessard leading the way, no adequate replacement for Lessard has yet come forward. Senior Evan Schwabe is the only Bulldog averaging better than a point per game, and the team is averaging just 2.2 goals per outing on their current 2-7-1 skid.

While his features betray frustration, Sandelin says that optimism still rules on his team, and they’re focused on what’s gone well so far.

“We’ve played three good games and probably should have won all three, but we lost two of them,” he said after the second Wisconsin loss. “We just have to keep building on the good things and get ready for North Dakota.”

Great Weekend Getaway
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North Dakota at Minnesota Duluth (Fri.-Sat.)
History tells us that teams with more than five conference losses have rarely won the MacNaughton Cup. Heading into this weekend’s battle of the league’s top two teams from last season, both the Bulldogs and the Fighting Sioux have five losses in league play already, meaning that by 10 p.m. CST on Saturday, one or both teams could effectively be out of the race for the WCHA title. It would be a wonder to see these teams playing for second place with more than a dozen shopping days left before Christmas.

While You’re There: There’s a certain national pizza chain that advertises using low-fat cheese and leaner meats on its pies, to cut down on the grease. Thankfully, that trend has never caught on a Twin Ports institution Sammy’s Pizza. Noticing how the heat of the ovens makes each individual slice of pepperoni curl into a little bowl to hold in that sweet orange pizza grease is nearly as enjoyable as eating their top-notch pies. And when a guy who’s seen as many rinks and post-game eateries as Jeff Sauer tells us that Sammy’s has the best pizza in the college hockey world, we listen.

Stick Salute

Classy promotion in Mankato this weekend, where fans are invited to bring stuffed toys for sick kids and chuck them onto the ice of the Midwest Wireless Civic Center after the first period of Friday’s game with Wisconsin. Fans participating in the Teddy Bear Toss will receive a free ticket to an upcoming Mavericks game (excluding their wildly popular series with Minnesota) while school officials will collect all of the toys and have MSU student-athletes distribute them to young patients at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mankato during the holiday season. Badger fans who want to get in on the act are encouraged to bring stuffed Buckys.

Bench Minor

True story from last week: A Bulldog fans calls the Dish Network customer service line to ask if the UMD-Wisconsin games will be televised. The customer service professional, seemingly bewildered by the question, ask what sport. Upon hearing the reply, “college hockey,” the Dish Network employee replies, “I thought they cancelled hockey for the season.” Expect to see a satisfied DirecTV customer watching the Bulldogs sometime soon.


Minnesota will be looking to extend an impressive school record on Saturday when the Gophers host St. Cloud State. Since dropping a 4-2 decision to North Dakota last January23, the Gophers have won 17 consecutive games at Mariucci Arena. With that building serving as the site of the NCAA West Regional this year, Gopher fans are starting to like their chances of a third Frozen Four trip in four years.

• Geographic diversity among the scorers has apparently been one key to Colorado College’s success thus far, as evidenced by their scoresheet from last weekend. Trailing Minnesota 1-0 on Friday, the Tigers’ tying and winning goals were assisted by Brett Sterling of Pasadena, Calif. In the final period, the Tigers went coast-to-coast for some insurance when Brooklyn native James Brannigan, a freshman, scored his first collegiate goal. No word as to whether both men root for the Dodgers.

• Standout St. Cloud State defenseman Casey Borer is turning down an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida in order to spend a few December weeks in sunny North Dakota. Borer, a sophomore, is just the fourth Husky to be named to a spot on the U.S. team for the World Junior Championships (the first three were Matt Cullen, Josh DeWolf and Mark Parrish) and in competing for his country in Grand Forks, will miss St. Cloud State’s trip to Fort Myers for the Everblades College Classic.

• While some teams complain about the rigors of traveling to Alaska, it’s North Dakota that’s apparently the tough place to play for the Alaskans. Last Saturday’s 2-1 win by Alaska Anchorage in Grand Forks was just the second victory the Seawolves have ever recorded in the home of the Fighting Sioux. But while the Seawolves have won only two of their 24 games ever played in the Peace Garden State, they are a respectable 2-4-2 all-time in the new Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Denver coach George Gwozdecky has apparently reminded his players of the old hockey strategy that a shot on goal is never a bad play. The Pioneers sent 94 shots at the Michigan Tech net during a sweep of the Huskies last weekend, marking their second 90-shot series of the season. Prior to this year, Denver had not recorded 90 shots on goal in a weekend series since 1997.

• Last weekend’s reunion of the “Run DMC” line in Houghton produced some impressive numbers, but nothing in the way of a cure for Michigan Tech’s team ills. The trio of Taggart Desmet, Colin Murphy and Chris Conner hadn’t played together since last season, when they accounted for 40 percent of the team’s points. Huskies coach Jamie Russell put the three together again for their series with Denver, and the unit tallied five of the team’s six points. Despite that offense, the Huskies lost twice, falling to a dismal 1-13-1 in their first 14 conference games. An impressive second-half rally will be needed if the Huskies are to escape the WCHA cellar.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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