Who: Wisconsin at #12 Michigan
Where: Yost Ice Arena
When: Friday and Saturday, 7:35pm
Two months into the season the Wisconsin Badgers can be best described as a work in progress.
After suffering through the worst season in program history a year ago the Badgers embarked on an tremulous offseason. Freshman defenseman Keeghan Ford left the program after twelve games. Star goaltender Joel Rumpel and second leading scorer Joe Labate were lost to graduation, while incoming freshman Brock Boeser switched his commitment to North Dakota last February.
It didn't stop there. Their third leading scorer Morgan Zulinick left the program in April to be closer to family, freshman defensmen Jack Dougherty exited the program for Portland of the WHL and star goaltender recruit Luke Opilka signed with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers after the NHL draft.
But there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
Wisconsin has a group of future stars at forward led by sophomores Cameron Hughes and Adam Rockwood. Freshmen Seamus Malone and Luke Kunin have both made immediate impacts and juniors Grant Besse and Jedd Soleway have both chipped in four goals each.
Wisconsin ranks 46th in goals scored per game, but a closer look shows a more respectable number being weighed down by a weekend in Boston where they were outscored 10-1.
On the blueline the Badgers are allowing 3.08 goals per game. They dress only two upperclassmen, seniors Eddie Wittchow and Kevin Schulze. Sophomores Tim Davison, Jake Linhart and freshman Peter Tischke have played in all twelve games and Patrick Sexton has played their last eight.
Freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik was a late addition to the program from Janesville of the NAHL and he has appeared in eleven games. With a young blueline in front of him, Jurusik has faced heavy shot totals in every game he has appeared in so far but has preformed better than you would expect from a player thrust into his situation.
What To Watch: Michigan
The Michigan forwards should have this game circled on their calendars. The high scoring Wolverine offense will have a dream matchup against a young Badger blueline that allows way too many shots to reach their freshman goaltender. Look for Boo Nieves, Kyle Connor and Brendan Warren to push the pace on the outside.
On the other side, the Michigan blueline needs to keep their foot on the gas. This Wisconsin team can hang around and they've played tough games this year, a month ago upsetting top ranked North Dakota and tying then 9th ranked Denver.
The penalty kill will need to be strong against a Wisconsin overload that has given Michigan problems in the past.
We will see who starts in net. If I had to guess I would go with Zach Nagelvoort, but every time I've guessed Nags he doesn't start.