Hayton to face alma mater when Saints travel to Madison this weekend

Kyle Hayton played well, but the Badgers couldn't provide enough offensive support in 4-2 loss.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

It’s homecoming weekend for Kyle Hayton. But instead of going back to college, the senior goaltender’s college is coming to him.

When the former St. Lawrence standout takes the ice against his alma mater on Friday, he’ll be in a place that few college athletes ever are: Facing off against the people he ate, lived and traveled with for the last three years of his life.

Sophomore forward Dan Labosky, who spent a couple games at Colorado College before transferring to Wisconsin and playing against his former teammates last season, knows better than most about what Hayton’s experiencing as he prepares to take on the Saints. Even in what could be an emotionally-trying moment, Labosky said Hayton has mostly kept to himself.

“He hasn't talked about it or anything like that,” Labosky said. “It's just one of those unspoken things where we don't talk about it with him, he doesn't talk about it with us.”

Even if Hayton hasn’t let the realization of the weekend’s opponent take over the locker room, he’s shown on the ice that it’s more than just another game, and the coaching staff has taken notice.

“He hasn't talked about it, but what's interesting to watch is his focus has been heightened and you can tell,” assistant coach Mark Strobel said. “The first couple days of practice this week I didn't see a goal go in on him.”

Hayton’s made a habit of letting his play speak louder than his words since officially joining the team in late August, and his presence between the pipes has been crucial to Wisconsin’s strong start to the season. The Denver native’s 70 saves in two games against Boston College and Merrimack earned him the Big Ten’s first star of the week, but his emotional reaction to a controversial Warriors goal was equally important in sparking the three-goal outburst that sealed the victory.

“He's not really a huge vocal guy,” Strobel said. “Guys watched him early on and he just went about his business and he fit in well and didn't overdo things. He's been a great complement to our culture.”

Despite some strong performances, Hayton has yet to collect his first shutout as a Badger, and this weekend presents one of his best chances. The Saints have struggled in all phases of the game this season, coming into Madison averaging just 1.5 goals per game — last in Division 1.

Hayton’s unexpected departure has also left St. Lawrence grasping for answers at goaltender, with junior Arthur Brey being thrust into a starting role after playing just four games last year. In six games this season, Brey has yet to record a win and his .861 save percentage ranks 61st of 67 qualifiers.

Wisconsin moved up in the polls to No. 5 after dropping a game to Northern Michigan last weekend, but it’ll likely need a sweep of the Saints to preserve that placement going forwards. Hayton’s play will be important if the Badgers are to avoid a letdown, and the former Saint seems ready to take on his old team.

“It's just a little extra incentive this week,” Hayton said. “I think it'll make it fun.”

Puck drops on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Kohl Center, with the rematch coming at the same time on Saturday.

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