View From Wisconsin

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Minnesota heads to rival Wisconsin for a pair of Border Battle games this weekend. Starting on Friday, the top-ranked Gophers will play five of their next six games on the road. We talked with Chuck Schwartz, who is the hockey editor of Bucky's 5th Quarter, about the Badgers. You can also follow Schwartz, who is a college hockey loyalist, on Twitter.
 
GopherSports: Chuck, you are a loyal follower of all things Wisconsin, but pay extremely close attention to the Badger hockey program. Can you give us a scouting report on them this year?
Chuck Schwartz: The team refuses to use it as an excuse, but it's impossible to talk about Wisconsin without bringing up their youth. The Badgers have only one senior on the roster, and have been trotting out lineups this season that regularly feature 15+ underclassmen. Without injured junior forward Derek Lee available this weekend, Wisconsin will use a lineup of forwards that features only one upperclassman, and that's junior Ryan Little, a converted defenseman.

It's been an up and down five weeks for the Badgers but they've played significantly better at the Kohl Center than they have on the road. Wisconsin is 4-2 at home so far, averaging over two more goals per game.

One of the major question marks surrounding this team coming into the year was where the scoring was going to come from, and to this point the answer has been by committee. The top line of Mark Zengerle, Tyler Barnes, and Joseph LaBate has led the charge, but 14 different players have recorded goals for the Badgers.

GS: Who is one player that Gopher fans should pay attention to this weekend?
CS: Defenseman Justin Schultz. He might be the best player in college hockey right now. The junior passed up an opportunity to sign a rookie max pro contract to come back for another year, and has been impressive in every facet. He'll play in all situations this weekend and will make it look effortless. Schultz had three goals last weekend vs. St. Cloud and saved his biggest one for last. His goal with 40 seconds left on Saturday night forced overtime and helped Wisconsin earn a much needed road point against the Huskies.

GS: Finish this sentence for us. Wisconsin will win if...
CS: It can get consistent play from their freshmen goaltenders. This is the first season since 1964-65 that the Badgers started the season without a goalie on the roster with collegiate game experience. Wisconsin has rotated two freshmen, Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel so far and have found mixed results. Wisconsin can't get into a track meet on the scoreboard if they want to win, so they are going to have to find a way to keep the number one scoring offense in the country under wraps. If Peterson and Rumpel can hold Minnesota's offense in check, Wisconsin will be in a position to earn some league points.

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