Thursday, February 19, 2009

The University Of Wisconsin Badgers

(above) The Kohl Center will be sold out this weekend

The Kohl Center Madison, Wisconsin, February 20-21

This weekend is perhaps the biggest series of the season, as the WCHA’s Co-Number 1 team, Eight- ranked Denver (17-9-4, 13-7-3 WCHA) travels to Third Place (and one point behind) 13th ranked Wisconsin (16-11-3 WCHA) for a two-game WCHA series on Feb. 20-21. Puck drop is set for 6:07 p.m. MT at Kohl Center both nights. Friday's game will be televised live on NHL Network and broadcast on AM 560. Saturday's game will be televised live on FSN Rocky Mountain and broadcast on 101.5 FM.

The Badgers hold a 71-52-9 advantage against the Pioneers in the all-time series that began in 1968. DU is 26-31-5 against the Badgers in Madison, but 11-2-2 all-time at the Kohl Center. DU is 3-2 in its last five games against Wisconsin and 5-5 in its last 10. The winning team has scored six or more goals in the last four games between the teams.

Badgers to Watch
The Badgers are led by junior defenseman Jamie McBain, who leads all NCAA blueliners with 7-27--34, and is a Hobey Baker Award candidate. McBain, who has tallied a WCHA-leading 4-20--24 on the power play, is one of 10 NHL drafted Badgers. Derek Stepan (6-18--24), John Mitchell (13-8--21), Tom Gorowsky (9-12--21) and Blake Geoffrion (11-8--19) round out Wisconsin’s top-five scorers. Shane Connolly leads the team with a 15-9-3 record, 2.50 GAA and .913 Sv% in the nets.

About the Wisconsin Program:
According to Wikipedia and the UW web sites, records indicate that ice hockey was played at Wisconsin before 1900, but the first varsity game was played in 1921. Coaching changes were frequent and seasons were short, due presumably to relying on nature to provide suitable outdoor conditions, and the University dropped the sport in 1935.

The modern era of Badger Hockey began in 1963, with the decision of athletic director Ivan B. Williamson. The Badgers started out ambitiously, playing as an independent team and scheduling 8 games against Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams, losing all 8 games. However, the persistence eventually paid off. Late in the 1965-66 season, the Badgers finally broke through, beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 5-4 in overtime, their first win over a WCHA opponent. At the end of that season, Coach John Riley retired, and UW hired "Badger" Bob Johnson (left), a former Minnesota Gopher player who would build the UW program into what it is today. Johnson would become one of the most the most legendary American hockey figures of all time, coaching not only the Badgers to NCAA glory, but winning a Stanley Cup as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and becoming an international fixture with USA Hockey as a coach and administrator.

The next milestone for UW hockey was WCHA membership, which came for the 1969-70 season. The Badgers shocked the hockey world by gaining an NCAA tournament berth in their first season as members of the WCHA. The early success captivated fans, who packed the 8,600 seat Dane County Coliseum off campus and made the arena what Sports Illustrated termed the “Montreal Forum of College Hockey”.

More success would follow under Johnson. After again earning an NCAA bid in 1972, the Badgers won their first national championship in 1973, over the Denver Pioneers. The 1977 UW team further cemented Wisconsin Hockey in the national landscape, by sweeping the WCHA regular season, tournament, and NCAA tournament titles. Behind the efforts of four first team All-Americans, Mike Eaves (the current head coach of UW) 1980 Olympic hero Mark Johnson (Badger Bob’s son and now coach of the UW women’ team), Craig Norwich and Julian Baretta) the 1977 team won the title in amazing fashion, getting an equalizing goal late in regulation and winning goal in overtime in the final against Michigan. Another player on that team, grinding forward George Gwozdecky, would later become the coach of the Denver Pioneers, cementing his own legend in Denver.

The early 1980s were a glory period for Badger Hockey. The Badgers reached the NCAA title game three consecutive times in 1981, 1982, and 1983. The 1981 title was especially sweet for the Badger faithful, coming with a defeat of archrival Minnesota in the championship game. After again reaching the championship game in 1982, where the Badgers lost to North Dakota, the program was dealt a double blow with the resignation of "Badger" Bob Johnson. He left Wisconsin after 15 seasons with 3 NCAA championships, a record of 367-175-23, and having built the program into an NCAA powerhouse.

The pain of 1982 was quickly eased in 1983, however, with the hire of former Badger assistant coach Jeff Sauer. Sauer turned around and won the 1983 NCAA championship in his first season. Wisconsin defeated Harvard 6-2 to earn the program's 4th NCAA title. Under Sauer's leadership, the Badgers would qualify for eight consecutive NCAA tournaments from 1988 to 1995, winning the program's 5th NCAA title in 1990, with a 7-3 victory over Colgate in Detroit. Also, Sauer presided over the team's move from the venerable Dane County Coliseum to the new, on-campus Kohl Center in 1998. The Badgers have been tops in college hockey attendance every year since moving to the Kohl Center, where crowds of 13,000 -15,000+ are the norm, with a rowdy band and and fully engaged student section. Wisconsin is also credited with the inventions of the "Sieve" cheer, now heard all over college hockey. A game in Madison is a special experience that all hockey fans should experience.

In the mid 1990s, Badger hockey hit a bit of a lull, earning NCAA bids in 1998 and 2000, but generally underachieving compared to the high standards of the 1970s and 1980s. The 1999-2000 team featured a duo of 2nd overall NHL draft pick Dany Heatley and Steve Reinprecht, won the MacNaughton Cup, and earned a #1 position in the polls for most of the season, only to be upset by Boston College in the NCAA regionals. Two seasons later, during the 2001-2002 campaign, coach Sauer announced his retirement.

Sauer's replacement was hotly debated. Denver’s George Gwozdecky was considered, but elected to stay at DU, and the selection came down to Mike Eaves and Mark Johnson, with Eaves getting the nod due to deeper coaching experience in the NHL and abroad. While Eaves still holds the record as UW's all-time leading scorer, he is a much more defensive-minded coach. His first season at UW was full of hardship and controversy, including one of the worst records in the modern era. However, in 2003-2004, Eaves brought the Badgers just short of the Frozen Four, falling in overtime to Maine. After a disappointing finish to the 2004-2005 season, the Badgers returned to national prominence by winning the 2005/2006 NCAA championship by winning the Frozen Four held in nearby Milwaukee. He is looking to return the Badgers to the pinnacle again, but recent teams have lacked the scoring depth needed to win Frozen Fours.

About the University of Wisconsin
Founded in 1848, the original idea of UW was to start the university near the seat of the state government in Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin. UW was founded the same year that Wisconsin became a state, and the University began with 17 students in rented rooms at the Madison Female Academy. Since then, it has grown to become one of America’s largest research universities, with over 42,000 students in 20 different schools, and the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system over $900 million in research funding.

Early UW academic successes included the 1913 and 1916 discoveries of Vitamins A and B by UW scientist, Elmer V. McCollum, and the 1923 process for adding vitamin D to milk. In 1940, UW developed Warfarin, an important blood thinner,
(also known as Coumadin) and named it after the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

In the 1960s and 70s, Madison and UW became a hotbed of anti-war protests including the August, 1970 bombing outside the Army Math Research Center in Sterling Hall, killing post-doctoral researcher Robert Fassnacht.

In 1988, two UW Madison students, Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson founded the Onion humor newspaper, and in 1998, UW cell biologist James Thompson first isolated and cultured human embryonic stem cells.

UW is a member of the Big 10 conference as well as the WCHA, and has really upgraded its athletic programs in recent years, and with no other comparable school in the state, UW Madison has a deep and passionate statewide following with large alumni chapters across the world.

Madison, Wisconsin
Known as one of America’s great college towns, the City of Madison is the State Capital with over 220,000 residents, and over 500,000 in the metropolitan area, the second largest city in Wisconsin after Milwaukee. The city was founded in 1836 as planned capital for the new Wisconsin Territory, and had only 626 people when UW was founded in 1848. The UW Campus has over 900 acres that occupy much of central Madison, sitting on an isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota in south central Wisconsin.

During the American Civil War, Madison served as a center of the Union Army in Wisconsin. Camp Randall, on the west side of Madison, was built and used as a training camp, a military hospital, and a prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. After the war ended, the Camp Randall site was absorbed into the University of Wisconsin. Camp Randall Stadium was built over the site in 1917.

Today, the city is known for both its liberal leanings and for its reputation as a party town, helped along by 40,000+ UW students and the bars of State Street. It's a white collar place with a lot of culture, recreational opportunities and cheap alcohol.

University Traditions

Nickname – Badgers
The nickname "Badgers" was borrowed from the state of Wisconsin. The territory was dubbed the "Badger State," not because of animals in the region, but rather because of an association with lead miners. In the 1820s and 1830s, prospectors came to the state looking for minerals, and without shelter in the winter, the miners had to "live like badgers" in tunnels burrowed into the hillsides. The badger mascot was adopted by the University of Wisconsin in 1889.

Logo and Mascot:
"Buckingham U. Badger", aka “Bucky Badger” was chosen in a student contest in 1949. The current emblem, a scowling, strutting badger wearing a cardinal-and-white striped sweater, was designed by Art Evans in 1940. Bucky wears a cardinal red and white Wisconsin sweater along with a gruff look on his face (the costumed-mascot version is decidedly cheerier, with a beaming smile).He also has a history of playfully fighting other team's mascots like the University of Minnesota's Goldy Gopher or Purdue University's Purdue Pete. Although fighting is no longer allowed by NCAA mascots, Bucky still frequently interacts with other mascots through skits. Bill Sagal was the first costumed Bucky Badger. The original Bucky costume was introduced at a pep rally on Friday, November 11, 1949, before the next day's Homecoming football game against Iowa. Carolyn (Connie) Conrad, a UW art student, designed the original chicken wire and paper mache head. Sagal, then head cheerleader, wore his regular cheerleader trousers and sweater and added boxing gloves.

The modern Bucky Badger logo was part of a group of "comic collegiate badger mascots" created by the Anson W. Thompson Company of Los Angeles in 1940. The company was one of several that manufactured decals and other logowear for universities. The UW athletic department first used the logo on the cover of the 1948 Football Facts and Centennial Sports Review. In 2003, Bucky was given an update, with simplified lines and the "motion W" on his sweater.

Wisconsin School Colors:
Cardinal and white are the official colors of UW’s sports teams, and the color of cardinal shade or red comes originally from Catholic Cardinal’s Cassock (robe). Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa State, USC, Stanford and Wisconsin all use Cardinal as a school color, which is very close shade to crimson, the color of the Pioneers.

Wisconsin Fight Song
"On, Wisconsin!" is the fight song of the Wisconsin Badgers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is also the official state song of Wisconsin. "On, Wisconsin!" was also the cry that Arthur MacArthur, Jr. used in the Battle of Chattanooga at Missionary Ridge, in the Civil War.

The tune was composed in 1909 by William T. Purdy, with the intention of entering it into a competition for a new fight song at the University of Minnesota. Carl Beck, a former University of Wisconsin-Madison student, convinced him to withdraw it from the contest at the last minute and allow his alma mater to use it instead. Beck then wrote the original, football-oriented lyrics, changing the words "Minnesota, Minnesota" to "On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!" (The eventual winner of the competition became known as the Minnesota Rouser).

The lyrics were rewritten for the state song in 1913 by Judge Charles D. Rosa and J. S. Hubbard. The song was widely recognized as the state song at that time, but was never officially designated. Finally in 1959, "On, Wisconsin!" was officially designated as the State Song. The song is actually in the public domain and used by hundreds of high school and small colleges, and is even used as the fight song of the CFL’s Saskatchewan RoughRiders.

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that line!
Run the ball clear down the field,
A touchdown sure this time. (U rah rah)
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight on for her fame
Fight! Fellows! - fight, fight, fight!
We'll win this game.

Famous University of Wisconsin Alumni
The University of Wisconsin has many distinguished alumni including aviator Charles Lindbergh, Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, writers Saul Bellow, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen Ambrose and Eudora Welty, TV personalities Edwin Newman, Greta Van Susteren and Jeff Greenfield. Famous UW politicians include Dick and Lynn Cheney, Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, as well as musicians Steve Miller and Boz Skaggs.

Famous Sports Alumni include Alan Ameche, Ron Dayne, Troy Vincent and Crazy Legs Hirsch (Football), NBAers Michael Finley and Devin Harris, Baseball Hall of Famer Addie Joss, NHL Hockey players Chris Chelios, Dany Heatley,Tony Granato, Mike Richter and Gary Suter, and Olympians Eric Heiden, Suzy Favor Hamilton, Carly Piper and Horse trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

The Series
The last time these two teams met this season, DU fired in a series-high 13 goals against Wisconsin in the two-game home sweep of UW back on Oct. 17-18. DU used a four-goal third stanza and three power-play goals to win the opener, 6-5. The Pioneers jumped to a 3-0 lead en route to the 7-4 and sweep in game two. Tyler Bozak tallied a pair of three-point games and Patrick Wiercioch recorded his first career two-goal game, including the game-winner, in the 6-5 win.

But that was a long time ago, and while Badgers started the season slowly, they are now red hot. Wisconsin is 12-4-1 in its last 17 games after starting the season 4-7-2. The Badgers enjoyed a bye last weekend after earning a road sweep (3-2, 5-4) at arch rival Minnesota on Feb. 6-7. UW sports one of the most talented defensive players in college hockey, and an excellent power play, led from the backline by Jamie McBain, who is arguably the best defenseman in college hockey this year. McBain likes to feed Patrick White power play one-timers, reminding old time hockey fans of the great early 1980s Badger power plays with Chris Chelios feeding John Newberry, Bruce Driver and Pat Flatley.

The Pioneers, after a hot start, are treading water at 4-4-3 since Jan. 2 and are 4-3-2 in their last nine WCHA games while remaining tied for the WCHA lead with UND at 29 points each, while UW is third with 28 points. Frankly, since Tyler Bozak went down to injury in mid-December, Denver has been a very average hockey team.

If there is a silver lining for Denver, the Pioneers are 11-2-2 all-time at the Kohl Center, and come into Madison with lead in WCHA in scoring offense at 3.53 gpg and rank second in scoring defense at 2.53 gpg. Rhett Rakhshani is DU’s leading current Badger killer with 3-8--11 in 11 games against Wisconsin. Kyle Ostrow has added 2-5--7 in five games vs UW and Marc Cheverie is 2-0 with a 4.50 GAA and .871 Sv% in two games against the Badgers. If the Pioneers are going to be successful, they will also need help from rookies Wiercioch (10-15--25) and Joe Colborne (8-17--25) who are tied for second in WCHA rookie scoring. Wiercioch leads all NCAA rookie blueliners in goals and ranks third among all NCAA defensemen in goals, while Colborne is coming off his best game as a Pioneer last week, when he scored twice in the third period, including the game-tying goal in the last minute to lift Denver to a 3-3 tie with rival Colorado College.

Looking analytically at the series, DU has the slightly better offense, ranked 5th nationally at 3.53 GPG, while UW is 12th nationally at 3.40 GPG. Defensively, DU is 16th nationally at 2.53 GPG, and Wisconsin is 24th nationally at 2.67, so another slight edge to the Pioneers there. Goaltending is basically dead even, with DU’s Marc Cheverie at .914 overall and UW’s Shane Connolly at .913, overall. But the big difference is on combined special teams, where the Badgers are an amazing third nationally, and the Pioneers are a horrible 44th nationally. This will likely be the difference maker in the series, as UW has been the hotter team. With the Badgers on a major roll and playing their best hockey of the year, and the Pioneers treading water of late without Tyler Bozak, and UW playing at home in front of 15,000+ fans, it makes it very hard to predict road success for the Pioneers. That said, DU gets up to play in games and settings like this one, and I think they may squeak out a tie this weekend. But I think that’s about all Pioneer fans can hope for as UW will likely take 3 of 4 points.

DU will try to use it's speed to run the transition on UW, but UW will counter with a solid forecheck. At this time of year, defenses have closed the gap on offenses, as film study and familiarity make goals harder to come by,

Prediction. UW will be a little sluggish coming off the bye week, and DU will tie up a 2-2 game on Friday, but expect a 4-1 Badger win on Saturday, as the Pios won’t be able to match UW in special teams play.

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