The University of Wisconsin-Madison men’s hockey team drops the puck later tonight in their season debut as they face of against Alaska in the opening round of the Kendall Hockey Classic all the way in Anchorage, Alaska at 8:00 PM Central Standard Time. After a short stint in the NCAA tourney, losing to North Dakota in the first round 2-5, expectations are set at beating last year’s performance. Wisconsin’s main weakness is their youth and inexperience. The Badgers hit the ice this season after losing nine seniors to graduation and two players to the NHL. The most notable of these loses being the Badger’s entire first line of Nic Kerdiles, Tyler Barnes, and last year’s leader in points, Mark Zengerle. With these gaping holes in the depth chart, Wisconsin attempts to fill them with eleven freshmen who have found a home in Madison. This inexperience on the offensive side of the puck is a major cause for concern for the team. The top leading point scorer from last year returning for the Badgers is Senior Joseph Labate who finished the season with 22 points, which was good enough for sixth best on the squad a year ago. The eleven players will have to acclimate to college level hockey quickly as this Badger team searches for point production within their current lineup.
With a young bunch of skaters up top, the Badgers will look to the other side of the blue-line for leadership. Starting goal for Wisconsin is Joel Rumpel. Rumpel emerged as the Badger’s number one goalie last year allowing 2.61 goals per game and going 21-6-1 for the season. This 6 foot 3 inch Senior from Canada is more than ready to stand on his head much like he did all of last season to keep Wisconsin in games. Wisconsin also returns three starting defensemen from last year. This defensive core should be the strength of the new look squad and could keep Wisconsin hanging around late in games.
A positive that should be taken from the Wisconsin’s loss of it’s stars is the emergence of new ones. Grant Besse, a forward out of Plymouth MN, is primed for a breakout year. The sophomore stud saw ample playing time last year and found the net eight different times and tallied six assists. He was the first Badger to score in their first two games since Kyle Turris back in the 2007-2008 season. He is really hitting his stride and is ready for a breakout year. Morgan Zulinick, a possible line-mate of Grant, also is a player to look out for. This five foot eleven inch red-shirt sophomore managed ten assists last season. With the Badger’s concern about a lack of offense watch out for these two plays to become Wisconsin’s dynamic duo up front.
The Badgers finish up in Alaska on October 11th against Alaska-Anchorage. They then head to Green Bay for a two game series with Northern Michigan. Finally, by November 7th, the Badger’s welcome North Dakota to the Kohl Center for a rematch of the first round NCAA tournament this past season. The Badger’s will be looking for revenge.