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Friday, May 24, 2024
UW to host St. Cloud as WCHA race heats up

davies: Michael Davies and the No. 3 Badgers will host No. 4 St. Cloud State.

UW to host St. Cloud as WCHA race heats up

In college sports, a matchup of teams ranked in the top five nationally usually brings hoopla, hype and the sense of a special occasion. For Wisconsin this weekend, its just another week in the thick of the WCHA title race.

The third-ranked Badgers welcome No. 4 St. Cloud State to the Kohl Center for the final weekend of regular-season hockey in Madison. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. both Friday and Saturday for what promises to be another high-stakes showdown among the college hockey elite.

Both the Badgers and Huskies currently find themselves looking up at Denver (32 points) in the WCHA standings. St. Cloud sits just one point back but has also played two more conference games than either Denver or Wisconsin. The Badgers (29) will need help to secure the MacNaughton Cup but do control their own fate when it comes to playing at home in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

While everybody talks about championships, both conference and national, as ultimate goals, head coach Mike Eaves noted that playing at home is a stepping stone to realizing such lofty expectations. 

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""[To] get home ice and finish in the top three so you don't have to play the extra game in St. Paul, those are little branches and little intermediate marking points that we want to get to,"" he said.

For Wisconsin to clinch home ice this weekend, they would have to knock off St. Cloud both nights and come away with four points. If the Badgers can replicate the special teams effort from last weekend, those four points will be a lot easier to come by. After killing off 13 of 14 power plays last weekend, UW faces a potent unit from St. Cloud, headed by junior Garrett Roe and senior Ryan Lasch, who have combined for 79 points (28 goals, 41 assists) this season.

""They move in transition real well,"" junior defenseman and captain Ryan McDonagh said. ""The second you have a turnover at the blue line or the red line it seems like it's coming right down your throat.""

The Badgers will counter with a dynamic offensive attack of their own. Senior center Blake Geoffrion earned National Player of the Week honors after posting seven points (3G, 4A) last week. Along with power-play partner and fellow senior Michael Davies, Geoffrion gave Mankato fits all weekend with his presence around the net.

""[Geoffrion and Davies] are on fire right now,"" McDonagh said. ""There aren't a lot of guys that can do what they do. It's a huge part of our team's success.""

As the Badgers enter another demanding weekend and steamroll toward the postseason, the dynamic skills of Geoffrion and Davies will not be the only thing they have working in their favor.

""We know how to play tight games and tough teams because we've been doing it all year,"" senior forward Andy Bohmbach said. ""This will really help us when tournament time comes.""

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