Sconnie Sports Talk

Wisconsin Men’s Hockey: Last series of the regular season against rival Minnesota


The Wisconsin Badgers travel to Minnesota to play their Big Ten rival, the Minnesota Gophers, this weekend in the last series of the 2015-2016 season.

The Badgers are coming off a split series against Penn State last weekend at the Kohl Center. The Badgers lost Friday night 1-2 but followed with a 4-3 win Saturday night.

Head coach Mike Eaves was happy with the Saturday night win but felt that it was not the men’s strongest game of the season. Leading 4-1 at the end of the second period, the Badgers allowed Penn State two goals in the third period.

“We’ve played better and lost…” Eaves said. “It’s not the way we diagrammed it out, but we found a way to win, and that in itself is a small step in the right direction.”

Junior Jedd Soleway had a good game Saturday, scoring the first of the Badgers four goals of the night. The first period goal marked the fifth goal of a somewhat trying season for Soleway.

“There’s definitely a level of frustration there for Jedd,” Eaves said. “The thing I don’t know if people will know is he’s putting in the extra time in practice in terms of skill work and taking shots and in the weight room to try to get out of this funk that he’s been in.”

The star player Saturday night, however, was freshman goalie Matt Jurusik, who made 46 out of 49 saves. After his performance this weekend, Jurusik also received his third star of the week honor from the Big Ten.

In his Monday press conference, Eaves praised both his goalies, Jurusik and senior Adam Miller, after the Penn State series.

Senior Adam Miller started Friday night instead of Jurusik. Miller played well in his third start of the season, making 28 saves in the 2-1 loss.

“As good as Adam played, he’s still our back-up,” Eaves said. “It was good to see for a couple reasons how Adam played in that he hadn’t played in so long and for him, to come in and just play…he put it all out there and really played well.”

In this weekend’s series and the Big Ten tournament, Eaves plans on starting Jurusik.

“In playing Matty on Saturday and the performance he gave, 46 saves on 49 shots, he’s going to be our guy as we head into the stretch here,” Eaves said.

The Badgers face a tough series this week, playing the #1 team in the Big Ten. In the last matchup between the Gophers and the Badgers at a crowded Kohl Center, the Gophers swept the series by scores of 4-0 and 9-2.

Of the matchup, Eaves reflected, “We have our biggest crowd of the year and our biggest rival, and the roof crashes in on us because of the score, and that’s the stuff you hate to happen, but it did, and now we have a chance to get back in the saddle again.”

Eaves discussed a conversation with his team Monday morning during workouts. He wanted to see what his players thought of the last matchup between the Badgers and the Gophers.

“The guys came up with it and said we’ve got to redeem ourselves,” Eaves continued.
“We’ve got that opportunity here. So that’s kind of the focus of the weekend in getting prepared for going back in there.”

A win this weekend would not only motivate Eaves and his team going into the Big Ten tournament, it would also set Minnesota back in their Big Ten rankings. Minnesota ranks first in the Big Ten with a 13-5-0 record. Michigan is four points behind Minnesota with a 10-5-3 record. A loss this weekend could be shift the Big Ten rankings between the two leading teams.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s series, the Big Ten tournament, and the 2016-2017 season, Eaves said, “A different task for us in terms of our young team is to finally figure out how to play with a lead and win, so another chapter in a book, another paragraph, and we’ll move forward from there.”

The Badgers will play the Minnesota Gophers Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with Badger Radio Network broadcasting the series.

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Men’s Hockey.