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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Badger hockey program sets bar high

Breiner

Badger hockey program sets bar high

Less than an hour after the Badgers' last game, senior forward Blake Geoffrion said something that set his team apart.

It was just a throw-in sentence, one that transitioned from looking back at the last game to looking forward, and made a pretty nice final sentence for more than a few stories. But just those five little words said so much more.

Geoffrion was asked what it meant to get to the Frozen Four, and he answered with the usual points (incredible, referencing those who came before, four seasons of hard work). Just when he seemed done, he threw it in. ""Job's not done yet, though.""

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And in Wisconsin sports that's an outlier.

The hockey team has said for most of the year that the national title is its top goal, flat-out. No qualifications, little doubt, no nothing. The coaches and players even went as far as describing the WCHA tournament title and regular season championship as ""intermediate"" goals.

Some would see it as insulting and pompous to call titles in arguably the best college hockey conference simply ""intermediate."" But that's the way it works for these Badgers.

Compare that to the attitude displayed by the football and basketball teams on campus.

It would take a good deal of work to get Jason Bohannon to even name the team Wisconsin would face two games down the road. They won't talk about potential tournament seeding or even reference their chances at a Big Ten title before new years (and usually after that as well).

The football team operates in a similar manner, playing down a squad's potential and keeping perspective aimed almost solely on what's just in front of them.

There is something almost bunkered-down about the approach. Both teams keep the profile low, don't push up hype and seem to put themselves in a position to surprise more often than to disappoint.

History may be a factor in this as both were not traditionally strong and rose to their current place in the sports world on the strength of deliberate systems with little flash.

Indeed Badger sports are often identified with slow, fundamental styles of play.

But then there's that hockey team.

They boast the top talent and they gun for titles. The Badger men's hockey team has six of them already and are just two games from a seventh.

Not to say the other teams don't, but they won't announce it. They won't declare that this squad or that squad has an unbelievably high ceiling.

Bo Ryan and Bret Bielema will hold back when talking to the media, coyly hinting at their perspective team's long-term outlooks and goals.

They shy away from the high expectations while the hockey program embraces them.

And there's something refreshing in that.

Mike Eaves has been fielding championship questions since November, and he doesn't seem to get irritated by it (Ryan and Bielema most likely would). His team knows how good it is and usually how good it should be.

After the victory over St. Cloud that sent Wisconsin to college hockey's final four last weekend and Thursday's matchup with the Rochester Institute of Technology, there was little surprise or amazement at having gotten there.

Instead there was a sense that they should be there, and should go further. They see winning the national title as the job, the goal and the logical conclusion to the season.

It's an attitude that must be commended for standing out.

Now only two games separate the Badgers from finishing the job.

Time to get to work.

What do you think of the hockey team's mentality? Do you think the players are too cocky or are they rightfully confident? Let Ben hear about it at breiner@wisc.edu.

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