After being shut out by Michigan State last weekend at the Kohl Center, the Badger men’s hockey team travels to Columbus, Ohio this weekend to play Big 10 competitor, Ohio State.

The Wisconsin Badgers rank last in the Big 10 standings behind number 5 ranked Ohio State. The Badgers left their last matchup in early January against Ohio State with a Friday night loss followed by a tie Saturday night with the Badgers winning an extra point in the shootout.

“They’re a team that can get up and down the ice,” Mike Eaves said of Ohio State. “They get spanked on Friday night at Penn State [last weekend] and come back and win 7-4. If you’re sloppy, they can score. They have the ability to play wide and open.”

While the Badgers have not necessarily been playing sloppily this year, their season has not gone as planned. Eaves continuously has referred to the struggles of the season as an uphill climb.

When asked about the resilience of his team, Eaves said, “If it [resilience] wasn’t when we started, it’s certainly one we have to build and include in our repertoire. We’ve demonstrated that.”

There were some positive takeaways from the Michigan State losses this past weekend. The Badgers outshot the Spartans in both games and finally saw a stable line.

Freshman Seamus Malone, sophomore Adam Rockwood, and junior Jedd Soleway became the dynamic line Eaves had been looking for the past couple weeks. Eaves predicted they will have similar lines going into this weekend’s games.

Several freshmen players showed success last weekend against Michigan State. Goaltender Matt Jurusik has shown consistent improvement in his first year with the Badgers.

“I think he’s faring pretty well,” Eaves said of the responsibilities Jurusik faces as the goaltender. “There are games that you would say, as he’s climbing his mountain, he’s got a lot of storms that he’s had to go through…and he’s making progress up that darn thing.”

Standout freshmen Luke Kunin and Sean Malone each scored this weekend. In total scoring for the season, both Kunin and Malone surpassed 20 points, making it the first time two freshmen met this mark since the 2009-2010 season.

Eaves also praised freshman Will Johnson who scored Friday night during a second period power play.

“One of his strengths is his skating ability,” Eaves said. “Although he’s not the biggest guy, I thought on Saturday night he was able to get that quick little body inside of people and win puck races and battles, which is something we’ve been focusing on.”

Of his plan for this coming weekend, Eaves wants his team to keep playing the way they’ve been taught in practice.

“We need to continue to do what we’ve been doing and preaching about playing the right way, playing hard and smart and as a team to give ourselves a chance to keep forging ourselves into the team we want to be,” Eaves said.
Despite their record, Eaves is proud of the resilience and teamwork his men have shown.

“We’re doing good things,” Eaves said. “Sometimes that’s an important message to carry to the kids because they, as we do, are measured by wins and losses, and the fact that people are reaching out to say, hey, you’re doing good things and you’ve just got to keep pounding away is a message that we’ll carry to our kids today and get back to work.”

The Badgers face Ohio State Friday night at 5:30 pm on the Big Ten Network. Saturday they play at 6 pm with the game being broadcasted on Badgers Radio Network.

Photo: University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department.