Banner day: UW hockey celebrates ’06 title

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoThe Wisconsin men’s hockey team accomplished a lot of things in the 2005-06 season — the best regular season record in the WCHA and a national championship, to name a couple — but one notable accolade was not achieved.In last year’s conference tournament, the Badgers were knocked off by North Dakota in the WCHA Final Five, raising the question of whether Wisconsin had what it takes to go all the way.That question was answered in a matter of weeks, and this weekend, the No. 2 Badgers will square off against the No. 5 Fighting Sioux, the last team to beat Wisconsin. Last season’s loss, while insignificant in the greater scheme of things, has not completely disappeared from the Badgers’ thoughts.”All those games are in the back of our minds, but last year was last year, and it’s over with,” senior defenseman Jeff Likens said. “I like to beat them every time, I want to win every game and so does this whole team, so losing to them last year in the WCHA Final Five puts a little extra burn in our bodies.”We have to come out either way and get the job done.”Prior to Friday night’s game, Wisconsin (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) will commemorate last season’s national championship with a montage of last year’s highlights and fireworks to set the stage for the unveiling of the team’s 2006 championship banner. The ceremony will undoubtedly be emotional for the remaining players and coaches, who will try to stay focused on the task at hand.”I think this (the ceremony) will be good for the fans of Wisconsin, and now they’ll have something physical to look at and remember about last year,” senior captain Andrew Joudrey said. “It will be a good celebration for them and for us, but it is what it is, it goes up and it will be great, but North Dakota is a pretty easy team to focus on.”After it goes up, we will be right back to thinking about the game.”Many of the Badgers said the banner ceremony will serve as a motivating factor rather than a distraction. However, they recognize that across the way North Dakota (2-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) will be looking to shock the hockey world and quiet the Wisconsin faithful. “Oh, they’ll (North Dakota) be gunning,” Joudrey said. “They are always a tough opponent and they bring a ton to the table; they’re fast, they’re physical and they’re well coached; they got some guys who can put the puck in the net, and we expect a hundred percent from those guys right at the get-go. We need to make sure that we are mentally and physically prepared to go to start the game.”The Badgers earned three points in Green Bay against Northern Michigan last weekend, but the intensity level should be drastically higher in Wisconsin’s home and conference opener against the Fighting Sioux.”We are going to have to adapt to a lot of things against North Dakota this weekend than we did last weekend against Northern Michigan,” Likens said. “It’s going to be a different kind of game; it’s a bigger ice. Those guys might come a little harder, but we’ll be good to go.”North Dakota is coming off a sweep over Quinnipiac last weekend, outscoring the Bobcats 10-3. While Quinnipiac is not exactly a force to be reckoned with, the Fighting Sioux are picking up right where they left off a season ago — UND averaged 3.57 goals per game overall (fourth in NCAA) and 3.71 in conference games (second in WCHA).Those numbers should not taper off, considering that North Dakota is bringing back an impressive sophomore class that features forwards T.J. Oshie (24 goals, 21 assists for 45 points), Jonathan Toews (22-17-39) and Ryan Duncan (16-20-36) and defenseman Brian Lee (4-23-27). UND has 18 underclassmen, but a talented and experienced sophomore class could make this team an offensive juggernaut in the WCHA.However, UW head coach Mike Eaves is not focusing on any one player.”North Dakota, whenever you play them you know exactly what you’re going to get,” Eaves said. “They’re going to come at you with great pressure, play hard, and that’s the kind of the game it’s going to be, and we’ll be focused on that more than anything else.”The Badgers’ defense and goaltending will be looking to step up their play to contain the Fighting Sioux’s offensive attack. The Badgers blue-liners have looked strong in the early going, yielding only four goals last weekend while Hobey Baker finalist and senior goaltender Brian Elliott recorded a shutout in his only action of the season.The atmosphere in the Kohl Center this weekend should be as wild as it’s ever been, and the Badgers will look to use the fan’s support and excitement to get off on the right foot in conference play.”It’s going to be fun and the fans haven’t seen a game here in a long time, we expect them to be as fired up as much as we are,” Joudrey said. “The more energy they give us, the more motivation we have to just go out and play as hard as we can for them.”last_img read more