Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Badger Hockey 101

Ok, so I'm going to be working on the premise that you all know next to nothing about hockey, especialy the college hockey scene. My apologies if things are too "dumbed down." Conversely, I'm really, really excited it's hockey season already and I'm always eager to convert more fans, so my apologies if I get rambling or too detailed.

Finally, there isn't a lot I know about the Women's Hockey team except for the fact that they are great. They're returning a better team than the Men are and they're a preseason consensus #1. They're returning 17 girls from last years team, including Patty Kazmeier Award (national best player) winner Sara Bauer. Goalkeeper Jessie Vetter was named the MVP of last year's National Championship.

Last year's title was the first for the women's team.

The thing outsiders will find most interesting about this team is that they are coached by Mark Johnson, former University of Wisconsin player and member of the 1980 Miracle On Ice U.S. Men's Hockey Team. (He scored two goals in the game against Russia.)

Both Johnson and Men's coach Mike Eaves were players on the Badgers 1977 team that won the National Championship.

Johnson was recently named head coach of the U.S. Women's National Hockey team.


Ok, on to the men.

Congratulations, you're about to become a fan of the number one team in the nation and defending National Champions.

First, some basics.

Last year's title was the 6th for the Badger men's hockey team. We've won the National Championship in 1973, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1990 and 2006.

Hockey conferences are not set up like the other sports. The Badgers are a part of the highly competitive Western Collegiate Hockey Association(WCHA) Conference. The other schools in this conference are Colorado College, Minnesota, University of Denver, University of Alaska-Anchorage, Michigan Tech University, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State University, and the University of North Dakota.

A member of the WCHA has won the National Championship the last five years running.
Six of this season's pre-season Top 20 are from the WCHA.
The women's championship has been contested since 2001 - a WCHA school has won every title.

The number one Badger that you need to know if goalkeeper Brian Elliot.
Brian is a senior and last year he was on of three finalists for the Hobey Baker award (pronouced Hoe-Bee) - given to the nation's top player. This nomination came despite the fact that he missed a portion of the season with an injured knee.

Brian is arguably the number one goalie in the country. His stats are a bit skewed from last season due to the injury, but in the final 9 games of last season, including the Frozen Four run, he was 8-1, with a 97% save percentage and a goals against average of less than 1.

This is made all the more spectacular by the fact that before last season, no one had heard of Brian Elliot. He was an 11th round draft pick. He was the backup for two years behind an All-American.

Also, he's from Alaska.

This season, the key is going to be finding guys to put the puck in the net. We lost quite a few goal scorers to early exit and graduation. Guys who accounted for 60% of last year's goals are no longer on the team.

There are two guys left who had double digit points last season. They're both sophomores. A lot of the pressure rests securely on the shoulders of Jack Skille and Ross Carlson.
Skille particularly is used to scoring in big pressure situations, as it was his goal in Triple Overtime against Cornell that sent the Badgers to the Frozen Four.

There is a lot of worry that the team's lack of goal scorers will be a considerable problem, but I wouldn't expect it to be a big issue. With the defense that we have - six returning starters plus Elliot - we won't need many goals to win games. Last season it took just one goal to win the game to send us to the Frozen Four and just two goals to win the National Championship game. You don't need offensive fireworks if you're not letting pucks past you on the other end.


Cocktail party conversation tidbits:

The national finals are called the Frozen Four. Last year they were in Milwaukee. This year they're in St. Louis.

Wisconsin beat Maine to win their semi-final in the Frozen Four. They beat Boston College in the Final to win the National Championship.

The biggest upset of last season was in the playoffs. Tiny Holy Cross college, a bottom seed, upset Minnesota, the WCHA conference winner and a number one seed in the playoffs. WE LOVE HOLY CROSS!

Wisconsin's most hated opponent, as always, is Minnesota. We will not let them forget Holy Cross. They had a player, who left early last year to go to the NHL named Phil Kessl. He was from Madison and he chose to play at Minnesota. That's hockey treason. WE HATE PHIL KESSL! At last year's Frozen Four semifinal, the entire crowd began chanting "Where is Kessl? *clap, clap, clapclapclap* because his team didn't make it. We really don't like him

If you thought football games were loud or that the student section was loyal or brutal, I'd like to introduce you to hockey fans. They're louder, more raucous and much, much more rude. Plus, the Kohl Center (where they play) is much smaller, so getting the student section organized is a lot easier.

The hockey team's number one fan is an adorable older man named Phil. Phil is at every game. Phil has groupies. Every time we score, Phil holds up the number that corresponds with how many goals we've accumulated and the whole stadium counts with him. 1,2,3 WE WANT MORE! His groupies (assumably his wife and children) will also wear sweatshirts with the numbers on them.

Finally, go here to watch a highlight film of last year's season. Well worth it.

Here is my post recounting being at the Frozen Four semi-final

This is my post from the day they won it all.

This is an ESPN article about the Championship, complete with video. This is another ESPN article.

This is the official site of the WCHA and is a good place to find news.

This is the U.S. College Hockey Online site, also a must read if you want to keep up with what's going on. And this is their forum, where you can find fans of literally every team.

I'll let you all go, but if you want more hockey info, I'll be posting more over on my site in the coming days.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled football programming.