Badgers to battle WCHA foe Minnesota State

first_imgWisconsin junior defenseman Ryan McDonagh and the Badgers struggled in Mankato last season dropping both games.[/media-credit]Following a disappointing opening weekend where the Wisconsin men’s hockey team earned just one point, the Badgers turn their attention to WCHA Conference foe Minnesota State, their first road test of the 2009 season.The challenge that awaits in Mankato, Minn., this weekend is one that head coach Mike Eaves and his team is looking forward to.“This is the exact type of game that we need to play to establish who we want to be,” Eaves said. “We’re going to a tough environment, and I expect this group to play well and bounce back.”In order to do so, the Wisconsin hockey team is going to need to do something they have rarely done — beat the Mavericks on their home ice. In fact, not one player on the current roster has tasted victory in Mankato — a fact the team is well aware of.“They were talking about it,” Eaves said. “They all know.”Part of what makes a series in Mankato so tough is the atmosphere that is created when the Mavericks take the ice, and Eaves knows the hostile environment can play a role in the outcome of games.“It is a building where the crowd is right on top of you,” Eaves said. “They play hard, and if you want to go in there and get points, you’re going to have to take it away from them.”Minnesota State lost its first two games to open the 2009 season to Minnesota Duluth, but UW has plenty of respect for a team that has historically given them trouble.Junior captain Ryan McDonagh has experienced the frustration caused by an aggressive Minnesota State team, but he is excited about the opportunity the team has in front of it.“You want to forget about those tough games we have had up there, but we understand it is going to be a tough series,” McDonagh said. “It will definitely be a good test for us.”Derek Stepan, a sophomore forward for UW who has developed into one of the team’s top playmakers, is prepared to play the particular type of hockey that will potentially earn key points this weekend.“They play real tough, and you’ve got to go in there and really outwork them,” Stepan said. “We need to get back to playing gritty hockey.”The Badgers have moved past last weekend’s opening series against Colorado College, but McDonagh has stressed the importance of learning from the mistakes early in the season.“It is just the first two games, but we want to learn from those mistakes,” McDonagh said. “I thought we had a good week of practice, and we are excited to get on the road and try to get the job done.”Senior captain Blake Geoffrion was welcomed back to practice this week and is set to play Friday night. With his return, Geoffrion should improve a power play unit that struggled in the opening weekend.“[Geoffrion] is pretty integral and he knows a lot of the intricacies of making that unit click at a high rate,” Eaves said.After going 0-for-9 on the power play without Geoffrion in the lineup (the one goal scored with the extra man was netted by Geoffrion before his injury), Stepan and his teammates know that UW’s performance with the man advantage needs to be better.“We just looked off,” he said. “We just need to connect the dots and play as a group of five.”The power play unit will look to get rolling this weekend, while UW’s goaltenders look to display their merit in a tough road environment. Eaves will start Brett Bennett over Scott Gudmundson in game one of the series, but it remains to be seen whether or not that will change for game two.Regardless of who is in the net this weekend, Stepan made it clear that this team has two capable options to chose from.“Both goaltenders are really solid, and we feel confident with either of them in the net,” he said. “We have no worries with whoever is back there.”The Badgers will attempt to earn their first win of the season on the road this Friday but Stepan and the rest of the Badgers are just looking forward to hitting the ice after a frustrating opening weekend.“We have got to get rid of that bad taste,” Stepan said. “This weekend is a good opportunity to do that.”last_img

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