Badger Hockey Showdown
Kohl Center • Madison, Wis.
Friday, December 30
Northern Mich. vs. Wayne State, 5:05 p.m.
Western Mich. at Wisconsin, 8:05 p.m.
Saturday, December 31
WMU vs. NMU or /Wayne State, 5:05 p.m.
NMU/Wayne St. vs. Wisconsin, 8:05 p.m.
On TV: Friday's Western Michigan-Wisconsin
game will air on a tape-delay basis on Wisconsin Public
Television at 10:30 p.m. CST.
For the second straight year, the host Badgers finished
second in its tournament to Ferris State. In fact, Wisconsin
was winless in the 2004 event, playing to a 1-1 with Yale
in its opening-round match. The Badgers earned the right
to play in the title match against FSU, which beat Clarkson
in the first round, by winning the post-overtime shootout
against the Elis.
INTERESTING HISTORICAL FACT
Wisconsin might want to move the tournament
back to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, its home from 1989-2002.
Bucky won eight Badger Hockey Showdown crowns during the
event’s 14-year run in the City Made Famous by Schlitz
Beer. They’re oh-fer in two tries at the Kohl Center.
WHO TO WATCH
All eyes will be on the Badgers…and
not just because they’re the country’s top-ranked
team, boast a leading Hobey Baker Award candidate in goaltender
Brian Elliott and Joe Pavelski, a dynamic forward who’s
having an All-American-caliber campaign.
Wisconsin’s recent struggles in the
Badger Hockey Showdown have served as a precursor for the
team’s lackluster play in the second half of the season.
In Mike Eaves’s first two seasons behind the bench,
the Badgers’ first-half record was an impressive 25-8-4,
while their second-half mark was a middling 21-19-8. Anything
less than two wins this time around could raise doubts about
the mettle of this team among the Bleacher Creatures.
The possibility that someone in the field
beats Wisconsin – as opposed to the Badgers beating
themselves – exists. Northern Michigan, which plays
this weekend without head coach Walt Kyle, is the top candidate
despite scuffling to a somewhat disappointing 9-8-1 start.
The Wildcats’ forwards have struggled to score thus
far, but the group led by upperclassmen Andrew Contois,
Dirk Southern, Jamie Milam and Darin Olver is dangerous.
Senior Nathan Oystrick is one of the CCHA’s top defensemen
and goaltender Bill Zaniboni (2.12 GAA, .916 sv%) has been
A pair of Great Lakes State schools –
CHA member Wayne State and Western Michigan of the CCHA
– round out the field. WMU, which has played well
against top-flight opponents in the recent past, is paced
by speedster Brent Walton (132 points in 130 career games)
and underrated two-way forward Paul Szczechura. Wayne State,
piloted by former Western Michigan coach Bill Wilkinson,
started the season 0-8-2, but has won three of its last
HOW WE SEE IT
The Badgers will be without three regulars
in the opener against Western Michigan – forwards
Ross Carlson and Nick Licari will sit after receiving game
disqualifications in a Dec. 10 win vs. Michigan Tech, and
wing Jack Skille is playing for the U.S. team at the World
Junior Championships in Vancouver. Elliott, Pavelski and
linemate Robbie Earl make the Badgers go, though, and the
Broncos are prone to defensive lapses. Wisconsin advances
easily, as does Northern Michigan, setting up a rematch
of the 1997 Badger Hockey Showdown championship game.
The Wildcats, like the Badgers, are talented
enough to win both high-scoring, offensive shootouts as
well as tight-checking, defensive affairs. But Northern
Michigan’s inability to score (the team ranks 8th
in the CCHA in scoring offense and has the league’s
least effective power play unit) plays to Wisconsin’s
strengths. The Badgers win their tournament in Madison for
the first time in three tries.