Badgers Look to Keep Season Alive Against Pioneers
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
ST. PAUL, Minn. Talk about bad luck.
The Denver Pioneers, just two weeks away from fielding its full complement of scorers for the first time in months, loses yet another one.
Following a knee injury to Tyler Bozak between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an injury which has prevented him from playing ever since, the Pioneers lost yet another impact player last weekend as Tyler Ruegsegger went down with a knee injury.
Bozak is expected back next weekend when DU begins play in the NCAA tournament but Ruegsegger will miss the rest of the season.
"Bozak was officially cleared to start practicing full time with us yesterday, and if everything goes according to plan, the doctors will release him to play next Monday," Gwozdecky said. "Tyler Ruegsegger looks like he's gone for the rest of the season, and will not participate unless something happens — doctors are looking at all different options, braces and things like that. ... Jesse Martin is, at best, questionable. Chris Nutini looks like he'll be ready to go if necessary."
That's all good news for Denver's first opponent this weekend, however, as Wisconsin is coming off perhaps the most impressive weekend of any of the WCHA's Final Five.
Following a 7-1 win Friday against Minnesota State, a game where the Badgers fired 66 shots on net, Wisconsin followed with a stellar 4-2 win Saturday.
"I don't think anyone though they'd be able to take a very good Mankato team and take them apart like they did," Gwozdecky said.
Combined shots for the weekend? That would be 106 — an average of 53 per night. The weekend was perhaps Wisconsin's best this season.
"This year, yes," said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves. "I thought that we had a lot of guys that did a lot of little things well and were the unsung heroes of that series."
Those unsung heroes? Aaron Bendickson and Sean Dolan, who both earned praise from Eaves on Monday afternoon.
"[Bendickson] played on a line with Bohmer and Blake Geoffrion, and over the course of the weekend did a lot of little things that don’t get noticed. He was the guy in front of the net when the goal was scored by [Jake] Gardiner on Friday night. He was the guy that was in front of the net a lot and did a lot of good things in the corner.
"Sean Dolan played very hard, finished all his checks, was a pain to play against, protected the puck well."
In order to have success this weekend, one in which the Badgers will likely have to win at least once and probably twice to make the NCAA tournament, Wisconsin will need all the help it can get.
The Pioneers are undefeated this season against the Badgers and have scored 22 goals in just four games.
"I think the fact that we haven’t been successful at all against them this year, played some decent hockey, just haven’t finished the job — I think that the fact that we get the chance to play, hopefully move on, and to play against Denver, whom we haven’t been successful against will be a double motivating factor," Eaves said.
For DU, history suggests the Pioneers will haul the Broadmoor Trophy back to Denver with them. Every time they have been to St. Paul for the Final Five since the opening of the Xcel Energy Center almost 10 years ago, the Pioneers have won the playoff championship, including last season.
But with the absences of Bozak and Ruegsegger this weekend, and with Martin questionable with a knee injury, another Broadmoor Trophy this weekend would be one of DU head coach George Gwozdecky's finest achievements.