Semi No. 2: Standbrook a Common Link
Wisconsin and Maine Square Off in the Badgers' Home State
by Matt Williams/CHN Correspondent
MILWAUKEE Asked to define "Badger Hockey," Wisconsin assistant captain Tom Gilbert's response was candid, simple, and eerily familiar.
"We just pride ourselves on going hard every shift. We take twenty minutes at a time and then a shift at a time and just make sure we're going hard all the time. That's Badger hockey for us," he said.
Sounds a lot like Black Bears hockey.
Indeed both Maine and Wisconsin feel as though they're entrenched with a doppelganger in Thursday national semifinal (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) at the Frozen Four.
"Maine is a mirror image of us," Gilbert added. "They play hard, they've got great defense and they've got great depth."
The Badgers and Black Bears each boast two of the top defensive teams in the nation statistically, backboned by four lines of blue collar, forechecking forwards who are dependable at both ends of the ice.
It's no accident that the philosophies of these storied college hockey programs are so similar. In fact, it's by the deliberate design of the one of the game's most treasured minds: Grant Standbrook.
The legendary Maine assistant got his start at Wisconsin and between the two schools he's coached in 14 of these Frozen Fours. The footprints of his recruiting style, philosophy on the game and outlook on life itself are stamped all over the lores of the Black Bears and Badgers.
"He's like a surrogate grandfather. He represents a reference you can always go back to," said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves.
Maine captain Greg Moore added that Standbrook's subtle advice is often exactly what players need to get to their games going, while Black Bears' coach Tim Whitehead noted his constant prescense over the years.
"He's sort of the link between (late UMaine) coach (Shawn) Walsh and myself and some alumni. It's amazing when people come in who are linked to Grant and just feel like a part of the program," said Whitehead.
Perhaps Standbrook's biggest contribution is in how he teaches his players to act off of the ice. In recruits, he looks for strong character and he continues to preach that throughout their years in college hockey.
It's most evident in those traits that brought Maine and Wisconsin here to Milwaukee. Their discipline and their depth. Men of character are responsible for their actions, and you'll find no two teams with more responsible forwards in the defensive zone than these Badgers and Black Bears. It's a testament to the way their programs were fathered and it's no coincidence that it emminates from one man.
"There's a knowledge base in him more than any coach I've ever seen," said Maine's Greg Moore. "He pulls you aside and tells you things that you couldn't even think of."
Wisconsin will have a large crowd on its side, playing in its home state and just down the road from its campus in Madison. But Maine captain Greg Moore said that both teams have pressure to succeed.
"The teams have the same goal," he said. "If they feel it, so be it. Hopefully, we'll get a good start and take the momentum away. We feel pressure too because we want to accomplish something and we have a big fan base too."
Moore said the team is anxious, though, after not having played in 10 days.
"We were anxious to get to Milwaukee and practice," he said. "I kept picturing how the game would go. Once the game starts, we'll feed off the energy in the building and just play hockey."
Said head coach Tim Whitehead," We set our own expectations high. We came here to do something special. We know it will be a big home-ice advantage (for Wisconsin), but that's why we play the games."
Wisconsin captain Adam Burish was equally jazzed about the opportunity, and not thinking about the "pressure."
"I don't think it's pressure, it's excitement," Burish said. "We're excited to be here in Milwaukee. All year reporters have asked, 'Wouldn't it be special to be here.' Yeah, it is special. It's unbelievable.
"This is the ultimate stage of college hockey."
Wisconsin is in the Frozen Four for the first time since 1992, and looking for its first title since 1990.