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Thursday, February 29, 2024
UW with a lot riding on Michigan Tech series

Smith: Junior forward Brendan Smith has tallied 39 goals this season, one behind senior forward Michael Davies for the team lead.

UW with a lot riding on Michigan Tech series

Maybe Michigan Tech is not the most prolific opponent Wisconsin has faced this year, and maybe the match up fails to grab the attention that becomes virtually commonplace in the WCHA, but good luck convincing the Badgers that this is a throwaway weekend. They have the chance to come back from Houghton, Mich., with a home playoff berth and sole possession of second place in the league wrapped up, and that stands as plenty of incentive. The puck drops from the MacInnes Student Ice Arena at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday in the second season series between the Badgers and the Huskies.

When these two teams met in Madison in early December, the Badgers racked up 85 shots and outscored Michigan Tech 14-2 en route to the most lopsided series UW has played this season. Despite the domination in round one, senior forward Ben Street expects a more competitive weekend this time around as Tech attempts to play spoiler.

""It's a different dynamic,"" he said. ""I'm sure they're looking at us like we have big targets on our jerseys. They always give us a tough fight in their barn.

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Wisconsin thrashed an understaffed Husky defense by converting on 7-of-13 power-play opportunities. For Tech, things have not gotten much better on the penalty kill. They enter this series at the bottom of the WCHA, managing to kill off just 68.3 percent so far. To make matters worse, the Badger power-play unit is hitting on all cylinders, converting 10 of the last 34 chances and sits fifth in the country (21.5 percent) for the season.

""Special teams we've been pretty good in,"" said junior defenseman Brendan Smith, who has notched ten power play goals this year. ""The power play is such a crucial thing because goals are so hard to come by in our league.""

Although the power play has been reliable the last five games, it may very well sport a different look this week. Senior captain and power-play leader Blake Geoffrion has not practiced this week after suffering a concussion last Saturday against St. Cloud State.

While there is a chance he will be available, the Badgers practiced this week with sophomore forward Jordy Murray in Geoffrion's normal spot down low on the power play.

""You can't replace [Geoffrion],"" Smith said. ""It's a little different having [Murray] on the power play, but we're getting used to it.""

Geoffrion leads the WCHA in goals scored with 21, and has averaged a league-best 1.43 points per contest in conference play. Should he be unavailable, head coach Mike Eaves should be able to dip into his bench and find a suitable replacement.

""We have people that we're pretty confidant can jump in there and we won't drop off the edge of the world,"" Eaves said.

Smith, who leads all defensemen in the nation with 14 goals, added that no team can expect to go through a season without injuries, and the best ones rise to the occasion.

""You have to go through some adversity to become a championship team,"" he said. ""This is one of those tests for us.""


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