The Matchup: No. 18/RV Wisconsin at Northern Michigan
Dates: Friday-Saturday, Oct. 17-18 | 7 p.m. CT
Location: Green Bay, Wis. | Resch Center (8,709)
Ice Surface: 200’ x 85’
Radio: WIBA AM 1310 — Brian Posick (Play-by-play) and Paul Capobianco (Analyst)
Video Stream: WCHA.TV ($)
Audio Stream: Badgersportsnetwork.com (Free)
All-Time Series: UW leads 46-27-6 (5-4-1 at neutral site)
Last Meeting: Wisconsin Win, 2-1 (Oct. 12, 2013)
To say these two teams are familiar with each other would be an understatement. Had it not been for the season-opening tournament in Alaska, the Badgers would’ve opened their season against the Wildcats for the fourth straight season. As it is, the Wildcats come in to this series as their season opener, marking the fourth straight year they’ll open with the Badgers.
About Northern Michigan:
Head Coach: Walt Kyle (13th season - 223-207-51)
Notable: The Wildcats were picked No. 6 in WCHA by the coaches and No. 7 by the media in their respective preseason polls. Green Bay Gamblers alumni Reed Seckel and Barrett Kaib return the the Resch Center once again.
Statistics (leading returning players):
Points: Mitch Jones - 23 points (3 goals, 20 assists)
Goals: Reed Seckel - 12 goals
Assists: Mitch Jones - 20 assists
Save Pct.: Mathias Dahlstrom - .912
Goals Against Average: Mathias Dahlstrom - 2.64GAA
Head Coach: Mike Eaves (13th season - 255-182-53)
Notable: Wisconsin played 10 of its 11 freshmen this past weekend in Alaska, with the newcomers scoring both goals and getting all of UW’s six points on the weekend. The 10 Badgers playing in last Saturday’s game (Tim Davison, Matt Ustaski, Keegan Ford, Cameron Hughes, Jake Linhart, Ryan Wagner, Jack Dougherty, Jason Ford, Corbin McGuire, Adam Rockwood) marked the most freshmen in a game for Wisconsin since Jan. 18, 2004, when 10 Badgers skated for UW in a 3-1 loss to Notre Dame at the Kohl Center (Brian Elliott, Matt Olinger, Ryan Suter, Jeff Likens, Jake Dowell, Andy Brandt, Robbie Earl, Andrew Joudrey, Mark Heatley, Ross Carlson).
Points: 6 players tied - 1 point each
Goals: Tim Davison & Matt Ustaski - 1 goal each
Assists: 4 players tied - 1 assist each
Save Pct.: Landon Peterson - .968
Goals Against Average: Landon Peterson - 1.02GAA
Quick Analysis: These two teams have met plenty of times over the last few years, and the last time the Badgers went to the Resch Center it was an unhappy start to the season. Wisconsin dropped both games in the 2012 season-opening series to the Wildcats. However, that season ended with the Badgers winning the WCHA tournament and making the NCAA tournament.
While those numbers are interesting, these two teams are more similar to the 2012 teams than anyone would think. The Badgers are a young team searching for its identity, especially up front, while the Wildcats have plenty of senior leadership to lean on early in the season….just like the two teams that met in Green Bay a few years ago.
Northern Michigan comes in to this season trying to find the right mix of veteran players with a minimum of seven new faces in the program. Having fifth-year seniors on a roster is a luxury in college hockey and its something that NMU can point to as they open the season. Forwards Reed Seckel and Ryan Kesti (who is a captain) are both fifth-year seniors and they’ll be leaned on big time this weekend.
What will be key for the Badgers is to find an early rhythm in these games, especially since they have the advantage of already starting their season. That means finding the right mix on the lines over the weekend, and to have Joel Rumpel pick up his game in between the pipes. He was not his normal self on Saturday in Anchorage, and given Peterson’s stellar performance on Friday night it won’t be easy to just assume he’s going to keep his job all that quickly.
If Wisconsin can get on the front foot and make the Wildcats chase the game it could be a series sweep for the Badgers.
Prediction: Split Series: Wisconsin 2-1 Friday, Northern Michigan 3-1 Saturday