With the most important two week stretch of the season on the horizon, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team remains in striking distance for an NCAA tournament bid. Ranked 16th nationally, the talented group takes on No. 11 Penn State this weekend in University Park, Pennsylvania.
What to Watch:
- Leadership: The group has been captained by “Captain America” Luke Kunin since the very beginning of the campaign. However, in such an important stretch, leadership often comes from unexpected places. Trent Frederic, a fellow first-rounder, will be asked to step up along with the rest of the younger half on the team.
- Goaltending: From the beginning of the year, the job seemed to belong to Matt Jurusik. However, while he missed time due to injury in November, freshman Jack Berry has stepped up and become a true threat to take the starting job. Last weekend alone Berry stopped 36 shots on his way to a victory against No. 5 Minnesota. Will this outstanding performance provide a spark to Berry’s play that could lead to a deep tournament run? Only time can tell.
- Defense: “Defense wins championships” is a saying as old as time itself that many use to explain a team’s success or demise. If there has been one consistent hole for the Badgers over the past season, it has been the play of their defensemen. The offense has been electric with more than five early-round draft picks scattered throughout the four lines. However, the defense has been a constant source of struggle as well as improvement. It will be extremely interesting to see how the defense deals with a Penn State team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation just a short time ago.
As the Badgers currently sit in a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings and sixteenth nationally, they are looking to solidify themselves as a NCAA Tournament lock. Expect the team to come out hot against the Nittany Lions, and even the Buckeyes the following week. Puck drops at 6 p.m. CT this Friday, and 7 p.m. CT on Saturday.