MADISON — Junior Ryan Wagner is no stranger to the cold of an ice rink. He’s always felt at home on the ice and, for him, the sport of hockey started as a family affair.

“I was four when I tried on my first pair of hockey skates.”

Growing up in Ridge Park, Ill., Wagner didn’t live far from his cousins’ house. There were six boys who all played hockey, and they would all play hockey in their backyard.

A love for hockey was born.

Wagner’s favorite player was the Detroit Red Wing’s Pavel Datsyuk.

“He’s part of the reason I wear the number thirteen. The other reason is for my mom because she’s number thirteen out of sixteen kids.”

Being an Illinois resident also meant Wagner could go and watch the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center and get a taste for how pro hockey was played even at a young age. Despite not yet being drafted himself, if he had it his way, Wagner would most like to play for the Blackhawks. Besides it being a dream come true to play alongside his favorite player Jonathan Toews, playing at the United Center “would be like going home.”

When it’s time to take the ice, Wagner does more than put on his game face, every opportunity for him is a crucial one. During the Badgers’ 8-5 loss against Boston College on Oct. 16, Wagner had a breakaway in the third period, skated the length of the ice, shot the puck into the goalie’s chest and proceeded to scream out of frustration until his face turned as red as his jersey. As Wagner said, “I was just being hard on myself for missing the goal, I had the opportunity to make the game a little closer.”

When the Badgers score, Wagner said his favorite student section cheer is Sieve “because it gets the goalie…rattled and makes it easier to get [the puck] past him.” Whether a close game or a landslide victory, Wagner says that most of what he does has become second nature for him at this point. When it comes to passing the puck around, Wagner can tell you where his teammates are supposed to be and when. Wagner also says, with practice and getting used to working with his teammates, “you just know what to do…it becomes muscle memory.”

When the weekend series has finished or the season has come to a close, Wagner enjoys spending time at his family’s house on the lake, going fishing, hanging out on the boat. He said this past summer, the LaBahn Arena was open every day so he was able to play hockey every day and work on his speed, which has definitely paid off.

Wagner also enjoys binge watching Game of Thrones, his favorite character has already died once, and he is currently awaiting the release of the next season. He also confessed, much like other past and current Badgers, he has watched the Bachelor. “Yeah, I watched this season…when Aaron Rodgers’ brother won and I just think it’s funny to watch all these guys try to impress a girl.”

Despite playing for the state of Wisconsin, Ryan Wagner is a Chicago Bears fan. However, he doesn’t participate in the Packers vs. Bears rivalry. He said he will root for the Packers when they’re on, because the way he looks at it is he’s rooting for his home team from Chicago but, now that Wisconsin is home for him, he supports Wisconsin teams as well.

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team will be battling Northern Michigan for the second time this season. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night.

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