The Wisconsin men's hockey team closes out a three-week home stand this weekend against the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves. The Badgers look to continue to improve within the WCHA after picking up two points last weekend against the Gophers.
The Seawolves make the trek to Madison a week after both teams split series against top WCHA talent. The Badgers won last Friday against Minnesota before falling victim to a five-goal attack on Saturday. The Seawolves dropped a 3-2 decision against Denver before hammering the Pioneers 7-3 Saturday night.
For the Badgers, the Saturday night loss at the hands of the Gophers was particularly hard to swallow because they had plenty of chances to stay in the game.
Senior forward Ben Grotting took four of the team's 47 shots on the night and said the effort was there, just not the execution.
""We played pretty well collectively as a team,"" Grotting said. ""Things that we can definitely build off of.""
Their opponent this weekend will provide a different set of challenges than the Gophers did. Alaska-Anchorage does not boast the top talent of programs like Minnesota, but has plenty of size and toughness, and Grotting said the focus this week has been preparing for that style of play.
""Physicality, finishing hits and matching theirs when they hit us [will be important],"" Grotting said. ""We have to push back a little bit and not just take them.""
Just because the Seawolves are known as a physical team does not mean that they are not dangerous on the offensive end, however. Denver learned that the hard way last Saturday, as Alaska-Anchorage exploded for seven goals, including six in the final two periods.
Sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner is well aware of that result and said the team will not let up this weekend just because the Seawolves are not a traditionally elite team.
""They have a lot of momentum coming into this weekend and they always work their butts off,"" Gardiner said. ""This is going to be a tough weekend for us.""
One of the most striking statistics for the Badgers this season has been the disparity between Wisconsin and its opponents. The Badgers have outshot their opponent in every game except for their second one against Colorado College on opening weekend.
The Badgers have not only put a high number of shots on goal, but the defense has done a good job of playing fundamentally sound and blocking shots.
That defensive help creates a lighter workload for the Badgers' two goaltenders.
For the first time last weekend, the Friday/Saturday rotation between juniors Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmundson was scrapped, and Bennett started both nights. After allowing five goals on Saturday night, though, it is unclear if head coach Mike Eaves will stick with Bennett both nights or if he will reinstate the rotation.
Faceoff is slated for 7:05 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night at the Kohl Center.