Badgers to face ‘Sioux’ in finale

first_imgBrendan Smith and the men\’s hockey team will fight to improve their playoff spot this weekend against UND.[/media-credit]Winless in its last four games, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team has one final series to right the ship before the WCHA playoffs begin.Considering No. 1 North Dakota is coming to the Kohl Center this weekend, gaining momentum heading into the postseason is easier said than done.The Badgers have only picked up one point in their previous four contests, but according to the players, securing home ice for the playoffs while facing the league’s top team isn’t a daunting task at all.“Overall, I just think we are ready,” UW defenseman Brendan Smith said. “If you can’t get pumped up for this weekend, what can you get pumped up for?”Despite posting a tie and a loss against Minnesota State last weekend, the team believes they competed at a high level. Outshooting the Mavericks in both games, the statistics would appear to back up that conclusion.“We just didn’t give up a lot,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. “The numbers we gave up were in the low teens, and usually when you have those numbers you win. Other than the final stat of goals for and goals against, we competed hard in a tough building and in the third period we had them on their heels.”Depending on the results around the league this weekend, Wisconsin can fall out of the top five in the conference — losing on home ice in the first round of the playoffs — or the Badgers can finish as high as third. Most importantly, UW controls its own destiny. With a sweep, Wisconsin would secure a top-three finish, and the assurance of skipping the play-in game for the WCHA Final Five should help Eaves’ team advance past the first round.“In hindsight you want to finish third [in the WCHA],” Smith said. “But I think our goal is to come in and play as best as we can. We just want to fulfill our goal in hits, shots on net and chances created. If we can reach that goal it gives us the best chance at winning.”With so much on the line, Wisconsin is bearing down in practice to get ready for the Fighting Sioux — and to forget its last series against MSU.“I think the frustration kind of ended on the bus on the way home,” Smith said. “I think everyone is pumped. North Dakota-Wisconsin is always a battle.”“Just the way we have competed over the last couple of days, it has been at a really high level,” Eaves added. “Based on that, [determined] is a good word to describe it.”No matter what attitude the team plays with, UW will be hurt if junior captain Blake Geoffrion can’t suit up for the series. Geoffrion injured his leg in the second game at Mankato, and according to Eaves, any scenario with the first line center playing is unlikely.“It is under the umbrella of doubtful,” Eaves said of Geoffrion playing this weekend. “Tomorrow, if he can do things off the ice that allow him to get on the ice — you know, we’ll see.”Although NDU will be wearing green and black, the Badgers may see a little of themselves in their opponent this weekend. With only forward Ryan Duncan ranking among the top 25 scorers in the WCHA for North Dakota, the Fighting Sioux score the majority of their goals with a balanced offensive attack.“They are pretty balanced,” Eaves said. “If you take a look at their numbers, they will play four lines. They’ll use more than six forwards on their power play. They have that balance, and that is one of their strengths.”last_img

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