In a game that came down to the wire, BC was able to secure a tie against a very solid Quinnipiac team last week thanks in part to freshman Jacob Tortora’s first collegiate goal that came deep into the third period. This Friday, the Eagles face another stalwart opponent coming out of the Big Ten: the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers enter this game after completing a weekend series with fellow conference foe the Ohio State Buckeyes. With Wisconsin traveling a far-ways east to Kelly Rink, I sat down with Jon Beidelschies from Bucky’s 5th Quarter to extrapolate some of the key things to watch for in Friday night’s showdown.
1) Big week last week for Wisconsin with them diving straight into conference play against Ohio State. With them equaling the series against the Buckeyes, what are some of the big takeaways you got from the first few games of the Wisconsin season?
It was great to grab a split against a strong conference opponent, although they were five minutes from a win on Friday before Ohio State put two past grad transfer goaltender Kyle Hayton late to win. The Badgers narrowly missed an At Large tournament bid last year - I hope the dropped points do not come back to haunt them at the end of the season.
Some takeaways: The penalty kill looked good against the Buckeyes. The Badgers killed off every penalty in the series against an Ohio State team that was really good on the power play last year. It looks like Hayton is solidifying the goaltender position after some up-and-down play at the position in 2016-17. Coach Tony Granato and staff have been recruiting well and several members of the freshmen class got some good run.
2) Which player(s) were you most impressed by last weekend, and what made them stand out?
Freshman Tarek Baker grabbed two goals in the series, including a penalty shot. Senior captain Cameron Hughes and 2016 Bruins first-rounder Trent Frederic, both of whom are expected to pick up the scoring slack from the departed Luke Kunin, both got on the board over the weekend as well. Junior forward Jarod Zirbel was +2 in Saturday's win, including nabbing an assist.
3) What are some areas that the Badgers should look to improve in coming into Conte on Friday?
Last year's defense was a crapshoot, so continued growth from the blueliners would be good to see. Associate head coach Mark Osiecki has a reputation as a defenseman whisperer and early returns have been good, but Friday will be a good early season litmus test.
With Kunin gone, production has to come from somewhere. Baker and fellow freshman Linus Weissbach each have two goals so far in the young season. Continued growth from a talented freshman class would auger well for success this year.
4) Who do you think could have a breakout performance against the Eagles?
Junior forward Seamus Malone was tied for third in goals last year for the Badgers but has been held goal-less in three games despite leading the team in shots. I think he grabs at least one over the road trip. Hayton was the ECAC Goaltender of the Year last year when he was at St. Lawrence. He's been in big spots before and could certainly steal a game.
5) What do you think the Badgers need to do in order to secure a victory this weekend against Jerry's squad?
Keep things close. Last year, Wisconsin found itself in a fair number of shootouts (including an 8-5 loss to the Eagles at the Kohl Center). With Hayton in net and more talent and experience on the blueline, I expect that things should be be a little saner, but without Kunin's scoring, the wide-open offense that served the Badgers well last season may be a bit tempered too. If the Badgers can hold BC under three goals, I think they come away with the win.
6) Prediction time. Whose winning this battle and what will the scoreline be?
I think this is going to be a good one. Wisconsin actually comes into the game ranked higher, which surprised me, but these teams are very close. Granato will have them ready. Wisconsin plays a bunch of juniors and seniors who have seen some pretty hostile environments, so I don't expect them to get rattled. My prediction: Badgers win 3-2.
Thanks again to Jon for taking the time to speak with BCI. Looking forward to what should be a great match between two top tier hockey programs!