HOUGHTON, Mich.—It's not easy to replace the leading goal-scorer in the WCHA, or the player who quarterbacks your power play, or the one who harasses opposing offenses on the penalty kill, or the person who takes (and wins) a great deal of your faceoffs, or one of the team's captains.
You could argue it's even harder when losing one player means losing all of those things.
But that is the situation Wisconsin was faced with as senior forward Blake Geoffrion stayed at home this weekend, kept out of the team's road series with Michigan Tech after suffering a concussion in last Saturday's win over St. Cloud State. The Badgers would need players on all four lines to make up for Geoffrion's absence, from his co-captains and fellow goal-scorers to the people lower down the lineup who had not previously put pucks in the net.
That's exactly what they got, though, and that's why they left Michigan Tech with a pair of wins.
""When you lose a guy like Blake ... everyone has to step up, and I feel like we did that tonight, and that's a sign of a mature hockey team,"" senior forward Aaron Bendickson said.
Bendickson was one of the top contributors to Wisconsin's win Saturday, scoring a pair of goals as his linemates—senior forward John Mitchell and junior forward Patrick Johnson—racked up points. The Badgers' third line of Bendickson, Mitchell and Johnson had come under scrutiny this year for not producing the way they should have through most of the season, but in the past few weeks they have taken a much bigger role in the scoring attack.
Mitchell said it was just a matter of time until the three of them would start scoring. Given the way he and Bendickson connected on the passes that led to Bendickson's two goals, however, you could be forgiven for thinking the two of them were some of the Badgers' more prolific goal-scorers all season.
""We've had the chemistry, we've been getting the chances, we just haven't been able to find the back of the net,"" Mitchell said. ""It was nice to get rewarded tonight.""
Eaves said he was happy to see the third line provide the team with much-needed offensive help in the close series.
""We said coming into this weekend that, not having Blake Geoffrion in our lineup, other gentlemen would have to step up and those two guys were the guys tonight,"" he said of Mitchell and Bendickson.
If Saturday's game was about less high-profile Wisconsin stars stepping up to replace Geoffrion's impact, Friday's was a matter of the Badgers' other big scorers filling his shoes. Senior forward Ben Street and junior defenseman Brendan Smith both scored Friday, Street with a five-hole goal in the second and Smith with a rocket from the point that helped seal the win.
Goal-scoring wasn't the only place Wisconsin missed Geoffrion, however, or the only place where another teammate played his part well. Senior forward Andy Bohmbach was active on the penalty kill, swarming Michigan Tech's attack and keeping the Huskies from converting on any of their nine chances in the series. Bohmbach added two goals of his own Saturday, one that bounced off his leg and in and another into an empty net.
Sophomore forward Derek Stepan said the fact that so many players were there to take on the various roles Geoffrion fulfilled shows the team's depth and strength.
""It's a maturity thing—as a team, when your leading goal-scorer goes down, you need to have guys step up,"" Stepan said. ""And that's exactly what happened tonight.""