Men's Hockey: ESPN's Buccigross, former Badger Geoffrion in town for Penn State game

Former UW standout and Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion will call Friday's hockey game against Penn State alongside John Buccigross. 

Former UW standout and Hobey Baker Award winner Blake Geoffrion will call Friday's hockey game against Penn State alongside John Buccigross. 

Image By: Danny Marchewka

It’s a big weekend for Wisconsin men’s hockey.

The Badgers (1-8-1 overall) are no longer the only winless team in the country, having earned a tie and their first victory at home against Ferris State last weekend. Now they will enter conference play against Penn State (7-4-2), a team that has emerged from the woodwork as a real competitor this year.

But it’s not just an important weekend for the current roster of Badgers. Blake Geoffrion, who won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award with Wisconsin in 2010, will call his first game for ESPN with John Buccigross tonight at the Kohl Center.

“I think it’s a great way to get college hockey out there and to try to bring some new fans to the game,” said senior forward Joseph LaBate.

The duo appeared Thursday night at the Nitty Gritty to answer fan questions and chat about college hockey. Buccigross, the ESPN anchor and hockey enthusiast behind #CawlidgeHawkey and the #BucciOvertimeChallenge competition hosted on Twitter, gave away hats, shirts, hockey sticks and tickets to fans who attended.

“The hockey fan in America is the most underserved sports fan of all,” Buccigross said. “I just do the best I can to try to fill that void, shake the pom-poms, give it a national platform, and just make it part of the conversation.”

Geoffrion’s first call will be a meaningful one.

The former Wisconsin standout played for the Nashville Predators, then the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the fourth in his family to play for the historic franchise.

Geoffrion spent three years in professional hockey before being permanently sidelined when he was slashed in the head with a skate in an AHL game during the 2012 NHL lockout. After his injury, Geoffrion became a professional scout for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now, he works in Chicago, temporarily removed from the game he loves.

“I just really believe that everything happens for a reason,” Geoffrion said. “You just have to take everything in stride, focus on the positives in life, learn from [the negatives], get a new goal and then set yourself up to reach that goal.”

Both Geoffrion and Buccigross are looking forward to the matchup between Wisconsin and Penn State, which will be the eighth meeting between the teams. The last time the Badgers played the Nittany Lions, they defeated them 2-1 to advance in the Big Ten Tournament, which they ended up winning.

But Wisconsin and Penn State are both very different teams this year. The Badgers’ freshman class is its biggest, accounting for the growing pains the team has experienced thus far. While Wisconsin’s defense and goaltending have been solid, its offensive output has been disappointing.

“When we’ve played them in the past, they go hard, they crash the net,” said senior goaltender Joel Rumpel. “I think the key will be to play tight defensively. We have to be stingy out there and not give them any huge chances, because they’re going to make their own.”

Penn State vaguely resembles last year’s Badgers. Averaging 40 shots per game, the Nittany Lions are second in the Big Ten in both points and power play points.

“It’s a great tradition, one of the best in the country,” Buccigross said of the Wisconsin hockey program. “It’s a great barn. But Penn State’s got a really good team, so I’m looking forward to experiencing it even more.”

Buccigross and Geoffrion will be calling the first game of the Wisconsin-PSU series, which will be broadcast on ESPNews. The puck drops at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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