February 11, 2004
Badger Turning Point?

By Jess Myers

 WCHA Notebook

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

Hockey East Notebook

Some might look at what happened last Friday in Madison as a turning point in the Wisconsin Badgers’ season. But according to coach Mike Eaves, the turnaround had begun six days earlier.

To recap, the Badgers trailed North Dakota (the nation’s top-ranked team at the time) 3-0 in the second period of Friday’s game at the Kohl Center, and appeared headed for their sixth loss in their previous eight games.

“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted, and I was disappointed with the response on the bench,” said Eaves. “But we wanted to just keep pecking away and try to get one back. That doesn’t happen very often against a great team like North Dakota.”

The pecking began with a Robbie Earl goal that got the Badgers on the board, but with less than 10 minutes to play in the game and the Sioux on a power play, it was still 3-1 North Dakota and all appeared lost for the home club. That’s when questions about North Dakota’s goaltending, which had been dormant for a while, flared up again. Sioux netminder Jake Brandt tried to play the puck and mishandled it, leading to an easy put-back goal by Andrew Joudrey, and re-igniting the Kohl Center crowd. Post-game comments by Sioux coach Dean Blais to the Grand Forks Herald made it clear that the coach was a bit steamed by Brandt’s blunder.

“All he had to do was stay in the net with a two-goal lead, but Jake found a way to botch it,” Blais told Herald reporter Virg Foss. “You don't have to come out and play aggressive. After that, he wasn't the same. He was rattled. The next two goals, he should have had.”

Robbie Earl's heroics against North Dakota made him the INCH Player of the Week.

The next two goals both came from Earl, who tied the game with 1:01 to play and won it on the only shot of overtime. It was a nice renaissance for Earl, a freshman from Los Angeles who was rumored to be unhappy after Eaves elected not to take him to Finland for the World Junior Championships.

“Robbie’s a natural goal scorer and a point-getter, but he’s certainly been going through some life lessons in the past little while,” said Eaves. “What’s nice is that all through the little funk he’s been in, he’s been working hard and has always played with great effort and determination.”

Saturday night, with a sellout crowd of 15,000-plus on hand, the Badgers completed the sweep, winning 5-2 despite being out-shot 43-23. Brandt finished the game for the Sioux after Jordan Parise gave up three goals on five Wisconsin shots in the second period and got the hook from Blais. But Eaves said that his team wasn’t out-played as badly as the stats might have indicated.

“Shots on goal can be deceptive,” he said. “If you look at the scoring chances instead, they had a few more, but it was pretty close to even.”

So did the Friday night rally signal a turning point for Wisconsin? Eaves said he thinks the rally began in earnest during a loss in Minneapolis.

“The real turning point was the Saturday night game in Minnesota,” said Eaves, recalling his team’s 3-2 loss to the Gophers. “We played well on the road and gave ourselves a chance to win, so that was big for us.”

If the Badgers are to land a spot among the top three in the WCHA this season, the four points and the incalculable confidence they earned last weekend might turn out to be pretty big as well.


Teammates for a Night, Rivals Forever – Ryan Malone and Paul Martin were bitter college rivals when the former skated for St. Cloud State and the latter manned the blue line for Minnesota. Today, they’re NHL rivals with Malone skating for his hometown Pittsburgh Penguins and Martin cracking the lineup with the New Jersey Devils.

But for one night, the hockey equivalent of dogs and cats living together happened, as Martin and Malone teamed up for the East squad in the NHL YoungStars Game last Saturday in St. Paul.

“I need to remind Ryan that we’re on the same team now, so he doesn’t have to hit me,” joked Martin before the game. “I just wanted to come here and try not to get beat too bad.”

Recalling their time as WCHA rivals, Malone denied ever intentionally roughing up Martin on the ice.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Minnesota at Minnesota Duluth (Fri.-Sat.)
This is one of those classic “something’s gotta give” weekends, when two red-hot teams face off. The Bulldogs own the nation’s longest unbeaten streak (9-0-1) while the Gophers have gone 9-1-0 over the same stretch. Each team has a hot goalie. Each team has a Hobey candidate who is bilingual. History favors the Gophers, who hold a 118-61-10 all-time mark versus UMD, but more recent history swings the way of the Bulldogs, who have beaten Minnesota the last three times they’ve played. After UMD swept the Gophers in Minneapolis in October, it would be logical to envision another Bulldogs sweep, what with UMD playing at home and all. But Minnesota was a different team back then, and it should be noted that only once in recent memory (1993) were the Bulldogs able to sweep the Gophers in Duluth. Add all that up, and you’ve got two teams as close to dead-even as you can be. In the words of Jack Morris quoting Marvin Gaye: “Let’s get it on.”

While You’re There: For the first time in the last three winters, there’s abundant snow on the ground in Minnesota. That makes Saturday the perfect time to ski the North Shore of Lake Superior. Within the city of Duluth is Spirit Mountain, which is one of the state’s better resorts and offers a great view of the harbor from the top of the hill. Another nearby option is Mont Du Lac in Superior, a smaller hill that’s perfect for beginners. If you’re more adventuresome, make the scenic 90-mile drive up the shore to Lutsen Mountains, for the best skiing available between Vermont and Colorado.

Stick Salute

To Michigan Tech’s Chris Conner. After scoring a shorty against St. Cloud State last weekend, he now has seven shorthanded goals this year – just three short of the national single-season record of 10 held by John Madden of Michigan. And Conner’s 10 career shorthanded goals are just one short of tying the Tech career record of 11 held by Al Radke.

Bench Minor

To the rest of the Michigan Tech Huskies. If you’re looking to get out of the league cellar and make a late-season push, being a virtual no-show at home in your Winter Carnival series before a big, encouraging crowd is no way to do it. Maybe coach Russell will deliver some inspiring words of wisdom on the long journey to Anchorage.

“He was always pretty tough to hit anyway,” Malone said, with a smirk.

In the second period of the game, Malone scored a goal, with Martin getting an assist, but their efforts fell short as the West won 7-3.


• Last weekend, for only the second time this season, Los Angeles Kings coach Andy Murray got to see his son, Brady, play in person. The elder Murray used the NHL All-Star break as a chance to fly to Madison to see Brady’s North Dakota squad face Wisconsin. “I thought he was average on Friday, but the whole team dominated on Saturday,” said Andy after Wisconsin beat the Sioux twice. “He’s having a lot of fun, and getting to play a lot.”

• One reason for Minnesota State, Mankato’s struggles this season may have something to do with how well the Mavericks have gotten to know the inside of the penalty box. Heading into their series at Denver this weekend, the Mavs are averaging 20 penalty minutes per game, which is about the only place where MSU is leading the WCHA.

• While 1992’s famed Olympic Triplecast was one of the great busts in broadcasting history (to recap, NBC got about a dozen people to subscribe to three pay-per-view channels that broadcast every minute of every sport from the Barcelona summer games) folks in Colorado and North Dakota are hoping the college hockey triplecast will do a little better. The games from this Friday’s Colorado College at North Dakota game can be seen in Colorado Springs on cable channel 32, in Grand Forks on channel 23 and nation-wide on CSTV. So much for the college game being under-exposed.

• For the past decade, Alaska Anchorage has had a reputation of playing stingy defense and even stingier offense. The 1997-98 Seawolves averaged little more than a goal a game for the season, notching just 45 in 28 WCHA games. So the fact that the Seawolves have three players with 10 or more goals this season is big news in Alaska. Doyle Woody of the Anchorage Daily News points out that with Curtis Glencross (13), Dallas Steward (11) and Chris Fournier (10) all in double figures, it marks the first time in nearly a decade that the team has had such a prolific trio. The 1994-95 campaign was the last time three Seawolves put up double digits in goals.

• The owner of the WCHA’s best non-conference record sits in eighth place in the league with a month left in the regular season. Denver has been mediocre in the conference, but the Pioneers were a perfect 10-0-0 versus non-conference opponents this season. The Pioneers notched wins over Ohio State, Wayne State, Air Force, Nebraska-Omaha, Niagara, Findlay and scored two-game sweeps over Northeastern and St. Lawrence. That solid non-conference record might be a reason why Denver is still tied for 11th in the national computer rankings.

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

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