Badgers Ready For More Home Cooking
by Gregg Paul/CHN Correspondent
MILWAUKEE Some people could look at the path Wisconsin has taken to the Frozen Four as a long, tenuous journey. While the grind of the season from the beginning of training camp to now was filled with many trials and tribulations, like it is for every team, you could also say that the journey from
their Madison campus to Milwaukee was a mere 72 miles.
"Reporters asked at the beginning of the season, 'Wouldn't it be great if you got to Milwaukee?" said coach Mike Eaves. "'The Regionals are in Green Bay, and the Finals are in Milwaukee ... how's that sound?' Well that sounds really nice, but in the long topsy-turvy road to get here and the journeys of these young men and you can well imagine they are excited to be here."
Perhaps the Badgers had an easy road to Milwaukee. Starting off the season 18-2-2 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, it led people to believe that the trip to Milwaukee was already booked.
Then an injury to phenom goaltender Brian Elliott seemed to alter those plans. The road suddenly became more of a grind. The clear path that was paved to Milwaukee was now riddled with bumps. A brief losing streak and subsequent fall from the No. 1 ranking was the result.
During that stretch the Badgers got away from what is
known as playing Badger Hockey.
"Keeping it simple and having fun and just playing," said captain Adam Burish about the definition of Badger Hockey. "Throughout the regionals in Green Bay we were successful because we were loose, we were just playing and having fun."
Senior defenseman Tom Gilbert echoed Burish's
response. "From my freshman year to now, everything we do, no matter how we're playing, we're doing it hard. That's basically what we pride ourselves on. Going out there every shift, every period, 20 minutes each period to the end of the game and give it all we've got. That's Badger Hockey for us."
Keeping it simple and having fun seems almost like a no-brainer for college kids, yet at times it was obvious the team was not on the same page. All that seemed to change after a loss in the WCHA Final Five to North Dakota.
A win against archrival Minnesota in the consolation game in St. Paul, then wins in the regional against Bemidji State and the epic against Cornell set the stage for a return home to Wisconsin and the berth in the Frozen Four.
Playing at home could lead to extra pressure, but not
so says Burish.
"I don't think it's pressure, it's excitement. We're excited to be here in Milwaukee. ... This is the ultimate stage of college hockey. We're excited. Whether it's pressure or not, I don't know that we feel any extra pressure, it's excitement."
Perhaps it could be overwhelming to be playing in your backyard for a shot at the national title. Perhaps the excitement that Burish mentioned could be turned against them.
But at this point, at least, everyone is back on the same page.
"Absolutely," said the effervescent Burish. "You're at this Milwaukee Frozen Four it's just what you think about, what you're working for all year.
"For myself, I don't have to say a whole lot (in the locker room), I don't have to give some unbelievable speech. Everybody is focused, everybody is excited, and by the way we practiced today and practiced all week it's been loose and it's been focused. That's the one thing the coaching staff has stressed to us: To be loose and to be focused. That's the way the guys have handled themselves all week.
"So absolutely guys are ready and guys are ready to get going."