Thread: WCHA Thread
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09-18-2011, 12:09 PM
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Time for the two most exciting words in sports; BADGER HOCKEY!

So it won't be that exciting, in fact this year may be another building year in Madison. Last year's team played with some good grit but could never really get the ball rolling. There are many questions surrounding this year's team that make the outlook cloudy at best.

Goaltending is the most obvious question. For years the goal crease was passed from a veteran to an emerging underclassmen who played as backup: Brucklund to Elliot, to Connelly, to Guddy and his backup, Brett Bennett are lost to graduation and the netminding duties are being handed to freshman Joel Rumpel. this situation is unique, to say the least, in Badgerland. I have a good feeling about Rumpel, but the WCHA is not kind to freshman goalies with a decent, but not great team in front of them. You can point to the success of Sam Brittian last year but he was on an awesome team, you can also point to his heralded partner, Adam Murray who was used as a shooter-tutor the year before on an equally stacked team.

Up front the loss of Craig Smith will be huge. He was a balls out player who left everything on the ice. Jordy Murray's 18 goals will be sorely missed as well. The cupboard's aren't bare though. Super playmaker Mark 1st Star Zengerle will be back in the fold as well as promising forward Tyler Barnes (breakout season?) and emerging power pfrward Michael Mersch. If Derek Lee rebounds from a forgetful season The Badgers should have 2.5 solid scoring lines. The guy who needs to bust out is Jason Clark. I've heard comparisons to Blake Geoffrion when this guy's name is mentioned. Geoffrion didn't do much his freshman season either, then, well, the rest is history. Let's hope the parallel remains the same.

On a personal note, keep an eye on my favorite player, Ryan Little, a forward converted from defense. The kid is the perfect agitator you love to hate. He became my favorite after watching him explode his body into Mike Hoeffel leading to the beatdown of Pat White (never pull Ben Grotting's helmet off!).

The Badger Backline reloads. This year's squad will be led by The Badger's 2nd Hobey Baker winner, Justin Schultz. John Ramage and Eric springer lend a veteran presence while guys like Frank Simonelli and Joe Faust, who represented very last year, continue to grow. Jake McCabe should be a nice addition to an already deep blueline. One might question how well Schultz will perform minus Jake Gardiner, his linemate from last year. Both had outstanding seasons so the answer of who made who will be answered this season. Schultz also benefitted from playing with hobey Candidate Brendan Smith his freshman year. He won't have that calibre a player this year but I expect nothing short of awesomeness from #6.

The incoming class, like last year's, is solid but not stacked like other recent classes. I like the outlook for the next couple seasons when the kids grow up and gel together, there should be a good core of 4 year players between this and last year's newcomers.

If the team plays to its potential there is an outside shot at the playoffs. This will require serious growth from the sophmores and for the frosh to be good as their predecessors...there is the goaltending thing as well. I'm at least expecting this team to be a pain in the *ss to play against and maybe serve as spoiler during the WCHA tourney.

**** 'em, Bucky!

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