Wisconsin Seeks Resilience
Kerdiles Set to Debut for Struggling Badgers
by Nathan Wells/CHN Reporter
Earlier this year, suspended Wisconsin left winger Nicolas Kerdiles laughed when asked whether he'd give his teammates scouting advice when they came to play Minnesota at Mariucci Arena.
"Everyone's been joking about it," Kerdiles said. "They made sure I'd take some notes and get a little scouting report going for them."
It's an odd question for anyone, but seeking answers has been a bit of a theme for the Badgers in the season's first two months. Not much has gone according to plan in a year where the only constant has been Murphy’s Law.
"We just seem to keep running into the 50 mile per hour head wind," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said.
Take Kerdiles for instance. While his teammates faced Minnesota Duluth earlier this season, Kerdiles was 150 miles south in Minneapolis playing for the U.S. Under-18 team as he sat out a 10-game suspension from the NCAA related to his relationship with a sports agency. He was nowhere near the ice when Wisconsin played the Gophers or when Minnesota State swept the Badgers in Madison last weekend.
The 2012 second round pick of the Anaheim Ducks is eligible to return Friday against Denver, but in the meantime the Badgers have gone 1-7-2.
It's safe to say this wasn't the position Wisconsin, or Kerdiles, saw themselves coming into the year. No one expects to see suspensions and injuries to top players just as much as an assistant coach deciding that returning to his family in November is best for him. But those things have happened to the Badgers, which has caused their coach to use one word to try to redefine the team.
"Resilient," said Eaves about being able to bounce back from difficult conditions. "We talked about this at length."
He's not alone. Maybe it is partially out of necessity but being able to recover is a sentiment that Eaves' team has bought into.
"Everyone in that locker room believes we're a resilient group. We lost a couple guys … but we all stuck together as a team. It shows when you can battle hard," sophomore goaltender Landon Peterson said.
Not everything, however, has gone awry in Madison. There are things for the Badgers to build upon from the first 10 games of the season. Despite returning 50-point scorer Mark Zengerle being on the shelf with a broken finger, junior Michael Mersch has taken his scoring to the next level. The Los Angeles Kings draft pick currently is seventh in the country with eight goals.
"He is playing his best hockey of his college career," Eaves said of Mersch, whose career high is 14 goals.
The 6-foot-1 forward is doing a better job using his presence in front of the net to create chances for the Badgers. Mersch has scored at least once in every series this season. At the same time, he also accounts for eight of Wisconsin's 18 goals and is six clear of any other player. The Badgers' offense ranks 53rd nationally.
While help will be on the way soon and the scoring problems that defined October and November may follow, the longer it goes on, the tighter the spring needs to be wound to bounce back into WCHA contention. It's something on the mind of Wisconsin. As the Badgers will be the first to tell you, the time for the team to show resilience is near.