January 13, 2005
No Bucking the Badgers

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

Forward Robbie Earl and his Wisconsin teammates are 9-1-0 in their last 10 WCHA games.

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Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves isn’t the type to be concerned about the notion that his team is peaking too early in the season. If he was, he would have had a sleepless night last Friday in St. Cloud.

The Badgers, who have now won nine of their last 10 WCHA games to stay atop the conference standings, played as close to a perfect game as one might ever see last Friday at St. Cloud State, blanking the Huskies 6-0.

Reporters had quizzed Eaves about the team’s offensive balance and defensive heroics for nearly 10 minutes before anyone even thought to mention Bernd Bruckler’s seventh career shutout.

Eaves biggest concern about one of his best players was stamina, as forward Jake Dowell was back in the Wisconsin lineup after skating for Team USA at the World Juniors and enduring what Eaves called “more than even a pro schedule” for a few weeks.

If Dowell was winded, he didn’t show it, recording three assists including an exclamation point play to set up a shorthanded goal. Dowell started by blocking a Husky shot from the point, then fought off an opponent for the loose puck, just amanging to shovel it ahead to A.J. Degenhardt. Already breaking up the middle of the ice, Degenhardt caught the puck in stride and was all alone before he even crossed center ice, and long before he tucked the puck low on St. Cloud State goalie Tim Boron’s glove side.

The goal gave the Badgers a 4-0 lead, and the play gave Eaves plenty of reason to heap praise on Dowell afterwards, noting that his presence might have made a difference in the Badger Hockey Showdown (where Wisconsin tied Yale and lost to Ferris State).

“That’s one of the things we didn’t have last week – that strength of stick to win the battle and make the play,” said Eaves. “Jake’s a big thick kid that doesn’t wear out too fast. He was definitely excited to be back with his teammates, and they’re happy to have him.”

As the Badgers dream of bringing the MacNaughton Cup to Madison for only the fourth time in the program’s history, there’s an army of red-clad hockey fans who are plenty happy to have Dowell back in the lineup too.


Tigers battle ailments on the road to the top
As his team battled Minnesota for the top spot in the national polls last weekend in Minneapolis, Colorado College coach Scott Owens may have felt more like a general rallying the troops inside a MASH unit before battle. Several of his players, while battling the Golden Gophers on the ice, were battling the flu everywhere else.

Owens said it was a challenge giving between period instructions while a few players were simultaneously winning the game and losing their lunch.

And if the stomach ailments weren’t enough in Sunday’s game, sophomore forward Scott Thauwald went from scoring his seventh goal of the season in the first period to having his season abruptly ended in the second period. Thauwald went down in a tangle with a Gopher player, and emerged with a torn knee ligament that will require surgery and mean’s he’ll miss the rest of the 2004-05 campaign.

Still, there were some silver linings (in the form of two wins at Minnesota and a trip to the top of the national polls) to be had among all of the illness- and injury-related dark clouds. Owens acknowledged that his team caught the Gophers at the right time, and had the skill to take advantage of that timing.

“There’s no doubt that Minnesota is in a bit of a lull right now,” said Owens after his team’s sweep gave the Gophers a three-game losing streak. “But it’s a sign of a good team to come in and take advantage of that.”

Great Weekend Getaway
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North Dakota at Colorado College (Fri.-Sat.)
This season, the Fighting Sioux are apparently taking their cue about how to play from the winter weather in the Red River Valley. In other words, sometimes it’s pleasant and sometimes it’s unbearable, and you really never know what to expect from one night to the next. The promising thing for fans of the green and white is that the highly-touted rookies (Zajac and Spirko, most notably) have lived up to expectations. But inconsistency elsewhere has doomed this team’s hopes of defending the MacNaughton Cup. As for the high-flying Tigers, we wonder how long their current injuries and lack of real depth will allow them to stay atop the national polls. But they’re clicking in all facets of the game right now, so who are we to cast aspersions?

While You’re There
Our good friends at the nation’s hockey governing body (we call it “USA Hockey”) tell us that Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in downtown Colorado Springs is the place to go for great food and beer microbrewed on-site. The pub’s web site informs us that the eatery is inside the century-old brick building that once housed the Cheyenne Hotel. We would’ve gone just for the beer, but if there are history credits to be had…

Stick Salute

It seems like Bob Johnson was the coach in Madison the last time we heard a friendly voice other than that of Nancy Olson when calling the Wisconsin hockey office. But someone new is answering the phone by saying “Badger Hockey” this week, as Olson battles a very serious case of pneumonia in a Madison hospital. Thoughts and prayers are with our favorite Badger fan. Those much-hyped late-season sellouts at the Kohl Center won’t be the same if there’s a lone empty seat in the second deck, right behind the home team’s net.

Bench Minor
We realize that Kris Chucko is just a freshman and that sometimes emotions get the better of any of us. But that nasty check from behind Chucko delivered to Brett Sterling late in the Gophers loss to Colorado College last Sunday was dumb, dangerous, and well-deserving of the five-minute major and 10-minute misconduct it drew.


The Minnesota Department of Transportation may have to look into building another freeway lane between Faribault, Minn., and Grand Forks, N.D., if the current recruiting trend continues. The Grand Forks Herald recently reported yet another top talent from Shattuck-St. Mary’s has committed to North Dakota. Virg Foss reports that Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews, 16, has told Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol that he’ll wear the green and white soon. Toews follows in some impressive footsteps, as the likes of Zach Parise, Brady Murray and Drew Stafford have made the jump from Shattuck to the Sioux.

• Forecasters tell us that St. Cloud, at -21, will be slightly warmer than Duluth, at -23 on Friday night. The weather in those towns is reflective of their respective college hockey teams, which meet this weekend at the DECC. A quick look at the numbers paints the dogfight between the Huskies and Bulldogs as a battle to determine who’s colder. Minnesota Duluth is 3-10-3 since late October, and has not won a game in more than a month. St. Cloud State has gone 0-6-1 since winning its first game in December, and both teams are struggling to find offense. Sounds like a cold weekend in Duluth.

• Droughts are a common topic in southern Minnesota these days, with the region lacking snow for their third consecutive winter. MSU, Mankato captain Steven Johns finally put a personal drought in the rear-view mirror last Friday, notching a power play marker for the Mavericks, for his first goal of the season. Johns, a senior defenseman had gone 22 games without scoring before lighting the lamp versus North Dakota.

• In the “how the heck did that happen” category, we have to congratulate Michigan Tech for notching the upset of the season last weekend at Denver. Huskies goalie Cam Ellsworth had 35 saves as Tech beat the defending national champs 3-0 at Magness Arena. Ellsworth told the Rocky Mountain News that he was especially glad his father, who’d flown in from Ontario, was in attendance to see his first win of the season. Even Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky found himself marveling at the play of the previously-woeful Huskies as times. “I found myself watching Michigan Tech many times, at just how hard they were playing, how smart they were playing, how intense they were playing,” Gwozdecky told the News. Ellsworth was almost as good the next night, giving up just one goal as Denver won 1-0.

Alaska Anchorage coach John Hill’s doctors have cleared him to travel, meaning he’ll be back behind the Seawolves bench this weekend when they visit Wisconsin. Hill, you’ll recall, missed last weekend’s series in Duluth after a slower-than-expected recovery from December back surgery. Seawolves assistant Jack Kowal ran the team during the series at Minnesota Duluth, guiding the Alaskans to a tie and a win. The interim head coaching success capped off a big month for Kowal, who also got engaged at Christmas.

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

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