The Matchup: No. 19 Wisconsin vs. Bemidji State
When: Friday & Saturday (7pm CT)
Where: Madison, WI - Kohl Center
Ice Sheet: 200' x 97'
Radio: WIBA - 1310
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 5-0-0 (2-0-0 in Madison)
Last Meeting: 4-2 W for Wisconsin (Feb. 25, 2012). It was the Badgers 1st ever sweep of the Beavers in Bemidji. Brad Navin, Sean Little, Justin Schultz, and Michael Mersch scored the goals after Wisconsin allowed the Beavers to open up the scoring in the game.
Wisconsin will be honoring one of the best teams in school history - the 1983 National Championship team - this weekend with Chris Chelios dropping the puck as honorary captain on Friday night. Saturday night will be extra special as the leading scorer on the 1963-64 team, Ron Leszczynski will drop the puck as the honorary captain. The 1963-64 season was the 1st in the modern era of Badgers hockey.
This will be the only meeting between these two schools this season and could be the final meeting between them for quite some time with the move of the Badgers to the Big Ten next season. Bemidji State will stay in the WCHA and isn't on the Badgers 2013 schedule at this time.
About Bemidji State:
Record: 5-16-5 (4-12-4 WCHA)
Head Coach: Tom Serratore (12th season)
Notable: The Beavers are 0-9-2 in their last 11 games since their last win on Dec. 15th, ironically against Denver. They've been swept in their last two series' coming into this weekend (vs. Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State) as well.
Points: Brance Orban - 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists)
Goals: Aaron McLeod - 10 goals
Assists: Brance Orban - 12 assists
Save %: Andrew Walsh - .909
GAA: Andrew Walsh - 2.81GAA
Record: (11-9-6, 8-6-6 WCHA)
Head Coach: Mike Eaves (11th season)
Notable: Wisconsin had their WCHA unbeaten streak snapped on Saturday last weekend after going 11 games without a loss. Thankfully, they are going up against a Bemidji State squad they have never lost to. Last weekend Mark Zengerle became the 71st Badger to reach the 100 point mark in his career with an assist in the tie on Friday night at North Dakota.
Points: Michael Mersch - 22 points (16 goals, 6 assists)
Goals: Michael Mersch - 16 goals
Assists: Derek Lee - 16 assists
Save %: Joel Rumpel - .930
GAA: Joel Rumpel - 1.84 GAA
Wisconsin will be without the services of their leading assists man, Derek Lee, for this series after suffering a concussion two weekends ago against Alaska-Anchorage. So, that means the Badgers must flip around a few things in their lines this weekend. Also likely missing from the lineup will be defenseman Jake McCabe.
This game does worry me a bit as the Badgers will face bitter rival Minnesota in a rare Friday-Sunday series with the first game in Madison and the second outdoors at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday as part of the Hockey City Classic (btw hit us up on Twitter @MTBadgers if you'll be in town as we will be there in force). Eaves has done a good job of talking the right game about focus this week, but it remains the biggest variable for me this weekend.
The Badgers have been using a rotation in net all season long and last weekend was different as Landon Peterson got both starts between the pipes for the 1st time in his career. Peterson ranks 4th in save percentage and 3rd in goals against average in the WCHA and could be solidifying his spot between the pipes. No indication has been given that he will take both games this weekend, but expect Rumpel to get some action as well.
Especially since he's been absolutely on fire to start the calendar year of 2013. Since January 1st, Rumpel leads the country in save percentage (.958), and goals-against average (0.99). He's got two shutouts and holds a 4-1 record in his last five outings between the pipes. Hard to argue with those numbers either.
It's safe to say the Badgers have a nice problem to have in net, huh?
With the possibility of Lee and McCabe both out the Badgers also will have to find something that works on the power play, as if they didn't already need to. UW has converted just 8-78 (10.3%) chances on the advantage and nothing cures that like going up against one of the worst defensive teams in the conference.
Bemidji State gives up 3.12 goals a game as a team, ranking them 10th in the 12 team WCHA and have allowed teams to convert on 20 of 99 power play opportunities this season. That ranks them 10th in the penalty kill as well.
On the flip side the Badgers defense matches up well statistically against a Beavers offense that only musters up 2.04 goals a game. Ironically, that's the exact same number of goals the Badgers defense is allowing per game, ranking them 2nd behind only Minnesota in the league.
Look for Wisconsin to try and take advantage of their size difference on both ends of the ice as the Beavers don't feature a forward that's taller than 6'1" and bigger than 205lbs. (Mitch Cain) and he isn't likely to be a big piece of the puzzle. Most other forwards are 5'10" and below and are lucky to weigh in around 185lbs. according to their official roster.
That means the Badgers must out muscle a team that can fly from time to time. If they can't take advantage and be the more physically imposing team all weekend long then they are doomed in this series and frankly don't deserve to win.
Prediction: Wisconsin sweep - Friday: UW 5, BSU 1 - Saturday: UW 3, BSU 2