Head coach Mike Eaves and the Wisconsin Badgers hockey team knew that opening up the calendar year playing the No.5 Michigan Tech Huskies would be a challenge, but they probably were not expecting to get absolutely demolished on their home ice. Thatâ€™s exactly what happened though, with the Badgers losing to Michigan Tech 8-1.
Wisconsin did not stand much of a chance, especially with Michigan Tech converting on 3 of their first 5 shots. The three early goals lead to Joel Rumpel, who tallied 2 saves, to be pulled not even halfway into the first period.
â€śWe got caught not playing at paceâ€ť said Mike Eaves, â€śI donâ€™t think the gap between us is 8-1â€¦ We got in a hole early. We were playing catch up all gameâ€ť
While Eaves cited the three-week break for the Badgers lack of pace, Sophomore Morgan Zulinick contradicted the coach saying, â€śWe canâ€™t use it (the break) as an excuseâ€ť.
So what was the reason the now 1-11-1 Badgers canâ€™t seem to string together 60 minutes of quality hockey?
With three weeks off comes three weeks to prepare and three weeks to become a better hockey team. The absence of any sign that this team was well prepared or even got better over the break has to be put on the coaching staff, especially Mike Eaves. He has to shoulder most of the responsibility for the disappointing season thus far.
Looking at tonight, the first goal came from Michigan Techâ€™s Tanner Kero. He snipped a low wrist shot past the glove of Joel Rumpel at 2:15 of the first period while Michigan Tech was shorthanded.
The second goal came from Husky Alex Petan at the 8:08 mark of the same period.
Petanâ€™s power play goal was a result of excellent puck movement from Michigan Tech. This puck movement continued as Blake Hietala netted the third goal for Michigan Tech off similar movement.
Hietalaâ€™s goal would prove to be the final straw for UW head coach Mike Eaves, who pulled Rumpel after letting in the third.
Senior Landon Peterson came in to replace Rumpel, who didnâ€™t even survive the first period.
With no apparent intermissionÂ adjustments from Eaves, the second period was much of the same.
Dylan Steman tallied Michigan Techâ€™s fourth goal of the night after a beautiful pass from Joel Lâ€™Esperance set him up with an open net.
Michigan Techâ€™s fifthÂ goal of the night came right after the Badgersâ€™ killed a power play. Wisconsin was still scrambling to get back in regular defensive position when the Huskiesâ€™ Hietala snuck one past Peterson to give him his second of the night and Tech a commanding 5-0 lead.
The penalty woes continued for the Badgers who went down two men after Jack Dougherty and Chase Drake both got called on back-to-back penalties.
Tanner Kero added his secondÂ goal of the night during the power play to put Michigan Tech up 6-0 late in the secondÂ period.
The one bright spot in the otherwise dismal game for Wisconsin game with under a minute to play when Freshman Adam Rockwood found Sophomore Morgan Zulinick for his fourthÂ goal of the season. Zulinick has found the back of the net in the last three Badger games and put the Badgers on the board at the end of two periods with the score of 6-1.
The Huskies struck first in the third period on the power play.Â Hietala added a slap shot goal from just outside of the slot to give the Huskies a 7-1 lead in the third period.
The Huskies were not quite done with the Badgers, as Kero added his third goal of the contest after beating his man, Eddie Wittchow, on a 2 on 2 break away and putting the cherry on top of the secured victory.
The eight goals were the most goals allowed by a UW hockey team coached by Mike Eaves at home.
The Badgers miserable season has left many fans wondering what needs to happen in order to get Badger hockey back on track.
A team that is no longer all that young coming back from Christmas break getting trounced 8-1 on their home ice is something that can not be ignored.
There is a lot of talent on this roster and it appears that Eaves simply has no idea how to coach them to success.
It is clear that whatever system he has in place is not working, and after three weeks to adapt to his roster and to his team, it is apparent that it still is not working.
While it may not be the best idea to ditch a coach halfway through a season, if the Badgers continue to be embarrassed like they were tonight, Eaves days in Madison are numbered.
The Badgers hope for some revenge tomorrow, as they will face the same Michigan Tech team at 7 PM at The Kohl Center, with the game on BTN.
â€śWeâ€™ll be better tomorrow nightâ€ť. said Eaves.
For his sake, and the sake of Badgers hockey, he better be right.