After devoting at least four years of work, sweat and time to a college hockey program, it seems unlikely that any meaningful conclusions can be drawn from the final game in front of a home crowd just because this particular Saturday was labeled “senior night.”On this rare occasion, however, the symmetry of senior night — all seven members of the graduating class scored at least one point and they accounted for 10 points in all — might have actually summed up the contributions from the veteran group this season.On the season, Michael Davies leads the team in points with 40, while Blake Geoffrion is close on his heels with 36. Fifth-year senior Ben Street is one of three captains along with Geoffrion, while the understated game of Aaron Bendickson — he wreaks havoc on the penalty kill and finishes checks despite his small size — often sets the emotional tone for the rest of the players.In what might be the last game in front of the Kohl Center faithfuls, the collective effort would be a fitting way to go out.“Everybody stepped up and chipped in,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said.“The seniors got the hard hat tonight.”Street, who decided last year not to return from injury and play on senior night, changed the momentum and tone of the game with his buzzer beating breakaway goal to end the second period.“Tonight, I just decided to make the most of it,” Street said. “There is not (a) point in being emotional that it might be the last home game; just seize the moment, and make the best of it.”Gudmandson gets the nodWith playoff time quickly approaching, Eaves has decided to try and figure out who will be between the pipes each night for the stretch run.Despite giving up five goals Friday night, Gudmandson was given the nod based on his body of work this season.The junior netminder struggled again Saturday, allowing several fluky goals and only finishing with 19 saves in 23 chances. Though requested, Gudmandson declined to appear for post game interviews.“Guddy struggled,” Eaves said. “There is no question there. I thought the way he had been playing he earned it… he would be the first one to tell you, for whatever reason he struggled. The thing I said to him after the game: ‘back to work.’”Energy MissingThursday night in Minnesota, the Wisconsin basketball team blew its shot at a conference title with a disappointing showing against the Gophers.One night later against St. Cloud State, the Badger hockey team may have done the same.The Badgers’ slide started when Brendan Smith took a two-minute interference penalty just under 90 seconds into the game. Though UW managed to kill the penalty, Wisconsin lost the jump in its skates and gave up a wrap-around goal to senior Ryan Lasch several minutes later.In a game with heavy conference implications, Eaves was disappointed with his players’ effort in the first 10 minutes.“The first 10 minutes, we didn’t have a great start,” he said. “For whatever reason, we were flat.”Street echoed his coach’s thoughts.“It was kind of a weird start,” Street said. “There was a penalty early. Jordy [Murray] kind of got caught in a long shift… the first 10 minutes only a few players played. No one really got in the flow. It was pretty stagnant on our bench too.”Though Eaves believed UW picked up the intensity for the final 50 minutes of the game, Wisconsin still made enough mistakes to suffer a 5-1 loss.The second mistake came when Gudmandson came out aggressively to prevent a breakaway — but ended up turning over the puck to Garrett Roe for a wide open net.Sloppy on defense for much of the night, Gudmandson was left in no-man’s land when the defenseman let Roe slip between them.“If I didn’t clear that puck he would have had a clear cut breakaway,” Gudmandson said. “It was a gamble… but he knocked the puck out of air and made a good play. If I had to do it again I probably would have gone out and tried to fire it.”Mistakes were also made on the penalty kill — St Cloud’s Tony Mosey was left unchecked near the net — and in the third period when the final tally sapped all energy from the building.Both Eaves and Street believe the Badgers out-chanced their opponent, but were unable to capitalize when presented the opportunity. For the Huskies’ part, no strong chance went to waste.“Every time we made a mistake, we found the puck in our net,” Eaves said. “We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. I think we will find in the game that we had a lot of good chances and didn’t bury them.”
Ever since I was a little kid I have celebrated four major holidays: My birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving and the football season opener.Football is that beautiful time between summer and my birthday where – in the days of my youth – Brett Favre shouted “Blue 58” every down like his life depended on it and a hot chocolate awaited me at every Packer game.As the years have gone by some things have changed – Aaron Rodgers anyone? – but football season still holds a special place in my heart. With every touchdown I celebrate as if I just got the best birthday present ever and yell at the coaches with every poorly called play. It truly is a love affair.Up until I committed to being a Badger all I ever cared about was professional football and my beloved Packers, but after paying closer attention to the Badgers, I proceeded to fall in love with Wisconsin football and ultimately Big Ten football.Instead of waiting for Sunday or the occasional Monday night, my weekends in the fall have become fully devoted to football.While I do have this new-ish love for Big Ten football, non-conference games against small teams that Wisconsin should handle with ease isn’t exactly the most exciting football of all time. But the Big Ten season itself hosts some of the most competitive football where it seems almost impossible to predict a winner with 100 percent confidence.On the other hand, some games are just too easy to call.With the Big Ten season starting this weekend it’s time to get down to gritty, tough football.Through four games, six Big Ten teams find themselves in the AP Top 25 – No. 2 Ohio State, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 17 Iowa, No. 19 Michigan, No. 22 Penn State and No. 24 Michigan State.While the other five teams may not be recognized nationally they’re still very capable of creating upsets – need I remind you of Nov. 21, 2009 when Northwestern outplayed Wisconsin to a 33-31 decision.Much like last season, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa are the teams to beat this year in the Big Ten.With Terrelle Pryor in serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy and his stunning performance in the Rose Bowl last year, Ohio State seems like the runaway favorite as the Big Ten Champion. While anything can happen in any Big Ten match up, Iowa and Wisconsin are the only teams who, at this point, seem to stand a chance in bringing down the strong Ohio State squad. With home field advantage on both Wisconsin and Iowa’s side, Ohio State will definitely be tested and have to prove they’re as good as the nation believes.That being said, if the Hawkeyes or the Badgers have any hope of knocking the Buckeyes off their Big Ten throne then they have to upset them at home.So can it happen?It’s pretty common knowledge that Camp Randall is a hard place to visit and leave with another check in the win column. Last season the Badgers only dropped one game at home, which was against Iowa. In the past five seasons the Badgers have only lost four times at home.The last time Ohio State entered Camp Randall they walked away with a 20-17 victory, and if it weren’t for their special teams and defense last year the Badgers could have easily made that game a lot closer.If the Badgers can keep it together and stay strong there’s always a chance they could defeat the Buckeyes and find their way to another Rose Bowl.But before I get too ahead of myself, Iowa is still a good team, despite their ranking. In fact, Iowa is a team Wisconsin and Ohio State need to keep an eye on.Although Iowa lost to Arizona earlier in the season they’re still a tough team that has the fire power on offense to put a lot of points on the scoreboard and the nation’s best defense to keep the opponent out of the endzone. While there’s still a question mark as far as the depth at the running back position, the Hawkeyes don’t seem too concerned that it will keep them from winning games.Honestly, I think Iowa still has a better chance than Wisconsin at knocking Ohio State off their Big Ten throne – though I hate to admit it. Last season the Hawkeyes went into Ohio Stadium and fought for a second half comeback that drove the game into overtime. While they lost by a mere field goal, imagine how the game will play out when the Hawkeyes have home field advantage. Let’s just say I believe and strongly hope the Hawkeyes are able to pull off a victory over the Buckeyes this year.Ultimately I have this nagging feeling Ohio State will most likely be the Big Ten champion, but I also can’t ignore the fact they could play in the National Championship game – at this rate anyways. But don’t worry Badger fans, we still have Rose Bowl hopes.First things first though, Wisconsin needs to travel to East Lansing and prove to the Big Ten they are one of the top three teams. Iowa has to host Penn State and show they are still a strong squad worthy of the No. 9 ranking they started the season out with. As for the rest, they know anything can happen any given Saturday, they just have to hit the gridiron and show that I’m most likely underestimating all of them to some extent.