Not the Easy Street
Wisconsin Senior Gets Another Chance
by Nicole Auerbach/CHN Reporter
DETROIT Ben Street knows that national championship games don’t come around too often — even though Saturday’s title game will be the second of his collegiate career.
As a freshman on Wisconsin’s 2005-06 championship team, Street didn’t exactly realize the magnitude of the accomplishment until he learned what it felt like not to win the NCAA Tournament the following three years.
“(As a senior) you really see what that means to everybody around here, and I think as a freshman you don’t really appreciate it — that’s all you know,” Street said. “Having not been there, getting into the tournament but not winning, it makes you appreciate this opportunity a lot more.”
Street is fortunate to be in this position at all, actually. After a torn ACL suffered four games into last season sidelined him throughout the 2008-09 season, Street was given a second chance at having a magical senior season. It came in the form of a medical redshirt.
Though the doctors gave him a six-month timeline which, if everything went perfectly according to plan, could have put Street back on the ice during last postseason, Street decided right away not to rush it. He wanted to “do it right” and take his time.
Street spent the remainder of last season rehabilitating his knee and working out so he could be at full strength as a redshirt senior. All the while, in the back of his mind was the idea that maybe, somehow, he would get to play for a national championship as a Badger one more time.
“I looked at the guys that were coming back and the guys that were coming in and the depth we’d have,” Street said. “I thought we’d have a legitimate shot to get here, and that motivated me the whole way.”
What looked like a pipe dream a season and a half ago could become reality on Saturday night at Ford Field, thanks to the Badgers' 8-1 national semifinal win over RIT on Thursday. Now, Street looks to bookend his five-year Badger career in fairytale fashion — a pair of national titles.
Similarities abound between the 2005-06 championship run and this year’s. Both Wisconsin squads finished the WCHA regular season in second place, and both teams were given No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournaments. Both squads were and are known for their deep rosters, something Street said was a strength of the Badgers heading into Saturday’s final.
“It’s kind of uncanny the similarities,” Street said. “With an outdoor game, with having a good record. There’s a lot of similarities that you can look at, but this team’s a lot different in a lot of ways. The personnel obviously, just guys having different roles.”
Street is one of those players whose role has changed markedly. He is now one of Wisconsin’s tri-captains, quietly leading the Badgers in games and in the lockerroom. He’s no longer a wide-eyed freshman from British Columbia, trying to adjust to the U.S. and college hockey in general.
“Being a freshman, it’s the seniors and older guys’ team,” Street said. “You basically just don’t want to screw up for those guys, almost. You want to contribute as much as you can and keep the momentum going when it is.
“This year, obviously you’re in more of a leadership role. You have to contribute a lot more. It’s just a little more ownership — you’ve been around the program a lot longer.”
After being around the Badgers’ program and college hockey itself for five years now, Street is also in better position to understand the significance of an NCAA Tournament championship.
“It’d be very equivalent to the Memorial Cup,” he said, referencing the junior ice hockey club championship trophy awarded annually to the Canadian Hockey League champion. “I think more and more Canadians are learning about the college game. It’s gaining a lot more respect. College hockey in the U.S. right now is great. There’s a lot of good players, a lot of guys going right to the pros. … For us, my family, and the other Canadians down here, it’s just as important.”