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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Badgers look to improve on disappointing season

street: Ben Street will try to rebound from a season-ending injury in 2008 to lead the team in his fifth year at Wisconsin.

Badgers look to improve on disappointing season

For senior forward Ben Street, Wisconsin's upcoming matchup with Colorado College means more than a normal opening night at the Kohl Center would.

Street, who missed almost all of the 2008-'09 season with a knee injury, did not play a single game last season in Madison. Luckily for Street—as lucky as someone who suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth game of the year can be—he was able to redshirt the past season and will play in his fifth year.

When the Badgers face the Tigers Oct. 16 to start the 2009-'10 season, Street said it will mean the arrival of something that has been his focus since last October.

""There's such great energy in here. I missed it last year,"" he said. ""I had to watch it all last year. It's pretty cool watching it, but it's way better playing in front of it.""

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Street will be one of the veterans on a maturing team that will look to its emerging stars to erase the memories of last year's disappointment. A slow start and some stumbles down the stretch not only kept the Badgers from claiming the WCHA regular season championship, but also meant the team barely missed out on a spot in the NCAA tournament.

According to Street, the team's struggles last season will motivate them this year.

""Last year was a disappointment, that's no secret,"" he said. ""All the guys know it, and you can sense a sense of urgency in the locker room to get going.

""We need to have a good start; we can't be left behind in the league.""

Analysts expect this to be a strong year for the WCHA. The No. 14 Badgers are among four WCHA teams in USA Today's preseason top-15 poll, with No. 8 North Dakota, No. 6 Minnesota and No. 2 Denver all ahead of them.

Sophomore forward Derek Stepan said Wisconsin will have to keep up good play through the entire season and not think it can slide by against some WCHA teams.

""You can't take any nights off, and you've got to play hard every night, so hopefully we can come out and play and have a good year,"" Stepan said. ""It's a very good league this year.""

Stepan's impressive freshman season last year conjured up memories of former Wisconsin player and current San Jose Shark Joe Pavelski for head coach Mike Eaves, and Stepan will be part of a large group of forwards fighting for top lines this season. Street said that depth will be crucial for the Badgers and that having so many quality players will keep the competition for playing time high.

""Each week in practice it's going to be a battle to get in the lineup for the weekend,"" Street said. ""Guys aren't going to be able to take a drill off or a shift off because they know that another guy's nipping at their heels trying to get into the lineup.""

While Wisconsin's depth could make the offense strong, the Badgers have to make a tough choice for their goaltender. After Shane Connelly's departure, Wisconsin will either put junior Scott Gudmandson or junior transfer Brett Bennett in goal depending on upcoming practices and the team's scrimmage Friday.

Eaves said Monday that Gudmandson did not shy away from the competition of the Badgers bringing in a transfer goaltender and that the competition between them will make both players better.

""[Gudmandson] took it upon himself to take that next step,"" Eaves said. ""They're going to push each other, and they'll help us, to a large degree they'll tell us ... who the people will be that will start.""

Fans will have their first chance to see the team in action at the Badgers' red and white scrimmage Friday at 7 p.m. before Wisconsin takes the ice against Colorado College a week later.

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