Men’s hockey looks for season’s first win, take on UND

first_imgThe Wisconsin men’s hockey team will look to get their first win this weekend when they play their first home games of the season in a two-game series against North Dakota.Wisconsin (0-4-0) opened up its season by traveling to Alaska last month, losing its first two games to Alaska-Fairbanks and Alaska-Anchorage. A week later, the Badgers traveled to Green Bay to take on Northern Michigan and dropped both games of that series as well.Friday and Saturday’s games will be the toughest challenge yet for the youthful Wisconsin team. North Dakota (5-1-1) knocked Wisconsin out of the NCAA Tournament last season and enters this weekend’s series ranked 2nd in the NCAA Top 25.Fortunately for the Badgers, they should enter the series with plenty of rest since they have not played a game in the last two weeks. According to Wisconsin senior goaltender Joel Rumpel, the Badgers have used the time during the break to fine-tune the small things that were causing problems.“We’ve been working on a lot of little things,” Rumpel said. “We’ve got a lot of new players on the team and just kind of getting used to the system and putting all the small pieces together that we didn’t quite have ready in the first couple weeks.”Rumpel, along with fellow senior Badger goaltender Landon Peterson, have been solid so far this season, combining for 91 saves and a save percentage of .89 through four games. Despite strong goaltender play, the Badgers have not been able to put it together so far this season due in part to the team’s youthfulness that Rumpel alluded to. Wisconsin lost its top four scorers from last season, and the team has 11 freshmen who have gone through growing pains in the early goings.Sophomore forward Grant Besse said the transition to college hockey from high school is not something that happens overnight.“With so many new guys getting to know our new system altogether, it’s going to take some time to learn the system and go from one area to another,” Besse said.Besse added that one of the biggest adjustments young players must make to play and succeed in college hockey is making quicker decisions on the ice.“You’ve got to know what you are going to do with the puck before you get it.  If you do that, you’ll be successful,” Besse said.Against North Dakota, Besse said they will need to match their opponent’s high work rate and prevent them from getting in front of the net.“We know they’re going to work hard. That’s kind of a staple of North Dakota,” Besse said. “They’re going to come hard with the fore-check and always have a net-front presence.”One of the freshmen Wisconsin will be counting on is defensemen Jack Dougherty, who was one of the nation’s highest ranked recruits. Dougherty will be a key contributor for the Badgers this season as they try to replace all the talent gone from last year.Dougherty will play in his first ever game at the Kohl Center Friday and said the key for him will be staying composed and blocking out distractions.“Obviously, I’m going to be excited about it, but I can’t worry too much about it,” Dougherty said. “I’ve just got to keep myself calm and play my game and perform well under pressure.”Besse admitted that the Badgers have been a little shaky so far this year but said they have put their earlier games behind them and are going into this series with a clean slate.“It kind of feels like a new season going into this game,” Besse said.According to Dougherty, Wisconsin can start off this new slate with a win by playing the “Wisconsin” way.“We just need to do things the Wisconsin way and trust that Coach Eaves and his systems are going to get us through it,” Dougherty said. “We just got to work hard, play physical and hopefully the puck can find the back of the net.”The Badgers will make their Kohl Center debut this season at 7 p.m. Friday night against North Dakota before finishing the series with the Fighting Sioux Saturday night at 7 p.m.last_img read more