March 6, 2008
It's Sit and Wait Time for the Badgers

By Jess Myers

If any Wisconsin Badger hockey players are seen strolling Bascom Hill or down by the Memorial Union this weekend and Tom Petty is blasting from their iPods, don't be surprised. The Badgers' regular season slate concluded last Saturday with still much to be determined. For Mike Eaves and his charges, the waiting is the hardest part.

"It's out of our control, so we sit and watch now," Eaves said shortly after the Badgers lost 3-2 at St. Cloud State last Saturday. A win or a tie by Wisconsin would've clinched home ice. Instead, both Minnesota State and St. Cloud State can now overtake the Badgers by winning this weekend.

WCHA Notebook

Ryan Lasch and St. Cloud State have their eyes on North Dakota this weekend, while the Wisconsin Badgers will have their eyes on the scoreboards during an idle week.

National TV Schedule

Minnesota State was 2-1-1 versus the Badgers in the regular season, and needs only a tie at home versus Michigan Tech this weekend to finish ahead of Wisconsin in the playoff seedings. The Mavericks' coach is among many amazed at all there is to play for in the final regular season series.

"All eight games are extremely important this weekend," said Troy Jutting. "There's a lot of stuff still on the table."

Colorado College, North Dakota and Denver have all clinched home ice, but there's a trophy to be won, which will be decided this weekend as well. The Tigers have a two-point lead in the final standings and need a split with Denver in their home-and-home series to clinch at least a share of the title. But the Tigers' home loss to Minnesota State last Saturday left the door open a bit for the Fighting Sioux. If Colorado College loses a game this weekend, North Dakota can get its hands on the MacNaughton Cup by sweeping St. Cloud State.

But it's not like Bob Motzko's team is lacking stuff to play for either. The Huskies need at least one win this weekend to move ahead of Wisconsin and be assured of home ice in round one. And thanks to a bewildering computer ranking that currently shows eight of the WCHA's 10 teams in the hunt for the NCAA playoffs, even teams that are assured of a playoff road trip are fighting for the right to still be skating on the last weekend of March.

"We've just kind of hung around and had a couple of good weeks, and that's all it takes," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, whose team hosts Minnesota Duluth this weekend. After an ugly 1-4-4 run in January and February, the Gophers are 2-0-2 in their last four. The change in fortunes began a few weeks ago when Lucia convinced his team that their playoffs, in effect, started on Feb. 22 and an all-out effort was needed in the final three weekends if the 2007-08 campaign was to be salvaged.

"Until that point, we didn't seem to have a sense of urgency all season. We were happy just to get something out of a weekend, even if it was just a tie," Lucia said. "Now we're finally scoring some goals." Minnesota has 14 goals in its last four games, after scoring just 15 goals in that tough nine-game stretch last month.

Of course, just because you're not playing this weekend doesn't mean you're not gearing up for the playoffs. For a team with designs on making noise in the WCHA tournament and the NCAA tournament, a weekend or rest and preparation might work well for a team like Wisconsin. The Badgers' coach assured reporters that his team won't be idle in their bye weekend.

"First we'll sit down as a staff and see where we are physically," Eaves said. "We'll do a myriad of things as far as walk-throughs, and intense days and game days and competitive days, so it'll be a bunch of stuff."

Then, they'll sit down for some scoreboard-watching, and the fun will really begin.


Injury bug arrives in Grand Forks: March came in like a lion for North Dakota, which suffered a pair of significant injuries while extending its unbeaten streak and moving within striking distance of the WCHA's regular season title.

The Sioux will be without rookie forward Evan Trupp and sophomore defenseman Chay Genoway this weekend when they face St. Cloud State, and for an as-yet-to-be-determined amount of time beyond that.

As was first reported by Brad Schlossman in the Grand Forks Herald, Trupp fractured a bone in his leg during the second period of Saturday's 2-0 win at Minnesota Duluth. Genoway sustained an arm injury during the opening period of Sunday's 2-1 overtime win versus the Bulldogs.

School officials wouldn't elaborate on the nature or severity of either player's injury, and offered no timetable for when they might return. Genoway entered the Minnesota Duluth series leading the WCHA in points per game among defensemen. He was hurt just 71 seconds into the Sunday game after being checked from behind by the Bulldogs' Michael Gergen, who played with Genoway at Shattuck-St. Mary's. Gergen was tossed from the game for the hit.

Trupp, who leads all Sioux rookies offensively, was injured in the Saturday game when his leg got tangled with a Bulldog.

Davies clicking for Badgers: No matter who and where they play in the playoffs, the Badgers' opponents will likely spend practice time working on ways to slow down Michael Davies. A sophomore forward from suburban St. Louis, Davies will enter the postseason having notched seven points in his past five games.

"The thing about Michael is he's putting two and two together. He's not the biggest guy but he can play physical and put his body on a guy, create a turnover and create a scoring chance by running into somebody," said Badgers coach Mike Eaves of Davies' newfound offense. "I think he sees that correlation now. Before he was an all-offensive guy. He cheated on the offensive side. Now he works hard by the puck actually finding him more often."

In last Saturday's 3-2 loss at St. Cloud State, Davies gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead without really getting a shot on goal. Setting up on the goal line to the left of the net, Davies tried a centering pass to the hashmarks, only to see the puck deflect off a Huskies defenseman and into the net.

"That's a goal-scorer's goal," Eaves said. "Those pucks go in for guys like that."

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St. Cloud State at North Dakota
There are no more important four points on the line than those available when St. Cloud State visits North Dakota this weekend. The Huskies need a win to secure home ice for the WCHA playoffs. The red-hot Sioux (14-0-1 since a loss at St. Cloud State on Jan. 4) need a sweep and some help from Denver to claim the MacNaughton Cup.

While You're There: There are abundant wonders in the Peace Garden State, but when we're in the home of the Fighting Sioux, it's fun to cross to the east side of the Red River for wildlife and wings. First, check out the massive Cabela's store in downtown East Grand Forks – home to 60,000 square feet of wild animal displays and every kind of outdoor gear imaginable. After that adventure, stop by the Blue Moose for good food and a cold beverage surrounded by an interesting mix of knotty pine and neon.

Stick Salute

The student section at the National Hockey Center was once renowned, and vilified, as a den of harsh words. So it was refreshing to visit the finest rink in Stearns County last weekend and hear enthusiastic support for the Huskies without the ear-burning profanity. Good work Husky fans, and let this be a lesson to your contemporaries in places like Yost.

Bench Minor

Perhaps we were too harsh, or at least premature, in saying that the January series between Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth at the DECC set offensive hockey back a decade. We should have reserved that judgment until after Denver and Michigan Tech combined to score four times over two games last weekend in Houghton. Say what you will about great goaltending and defense, but we do like to see that pretty red light illuminated every now and then.


• Congrats to Denver senior goaltender Peter Mannino, after he put his name in the school record books last weekend. Mannino's 21-save shutout of Michigan Tech last Friday was the 14th blanking of his college career, which moved Mannino past Gerry Powers into the top spot on the school's all-time list.

• Alaska Anchorage is another team that's off this weekend. The Seawolves are assured of finishing 10th in the WCHA for the third consecutive season and will travel to either Colorado College or North Dakota for the opening round of the playoffs. The team's struggles seem to be limited to conference play, after Dave Shyiak and company went 4-0-2 in non-conference games this season. Shyiak is 10-4-4 outside the WCHA in his three seasons as the Seawolves' coach.

• It wasn't a big surprise to see Colorado College hold Minnesota State scoreless in eight power play attempts last weekend. The Tigers' penalty kill unit is leading the WCHA and the nation, having killed 91 percent of their penalties, and having scored 10 shorties. Two points this weekend would give the Tigers their sixth WCHA title since the 1993-94 season.

• One thing lost when the WCHA went to an unbalanced schedule a few years ago was the yearly trip to Minneapolis for many Minnesota Duluth fans. The Bulldogs' visit to Mariucci Arena this weekend will be their first in more than two years. But there may be a few extra Duluthians in attendance at the college games, with many Twin Ports residents already in the Twin Cities for hockey. Duluth Marshall is playing in the renowned Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament this weekend at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The top-ranked Hilltoppers are seeking their first state title after finishing second in the previous two tournaments.

• A lesson seems to have been learned by WCHA coaches after the melee in the handshake line between Minnesota and North Dakota in early February. When a fracas broke out at the end of last Saturday's Wisconsin-St. Cloud State, the coaches separated their teams, acknowledged each other, then sent the teams off the ice without shaking hands. That's a blow against tradition and sportsmanship, but a positive move for common sense.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached at