This weekend the Badgers men's hockey team finally open up their home slate with a pair of WCHA games against Colorado College. Friday night Wisconsin names their rink in honor of the late "Hockey Bob," Bob Johnson and this will be the final season CC and Wisconsin play each other as members of the same conference.
As part of our coverage we were able to sit down with the radio voice of the Tigers, Ken Landau, for a little Q&A session.
Colorado College comes in to this weekend as the last team to play a WCHA series. With that backdrop here is what Ken had to say in advance of the series this weekend.
MTB: CC is coming into this weekend's series on a 3 game losing streak. This team seems to be a bit streaky, scoring a lot in it's 3 wins, but not so much in the losing streak. What is going on offensively for the Tigers?
Ken Landau: The Tigers scored 16 goals in their three victories to start the season, only 3 in the three losses. Some of the scoring drought can be attributed to Colorado College facing two of the top goaltenders in the country, Andy Iles of Cornell and Doug Carr at UMass-Lowell; each honored in their respective league last year. The bigger concern has been the lack of production on the power play. In the three losses, CC is 0-11 on the power play
MTB: How important is it for this team to get off to the right start in WCHA play and perhaps steal a point or 3 this weekend?
Ken: A good start in league play is vital for CC (and everyone else for that matter). I expect this to be an extremely competitive season in the WCHA, so a slow start can put any team behind the "8-ball" very early. You can't win the league title in November and December, but a poor start can put a league title, home-ice, and a possible NCAA tournament bid in real jeopardy. CC is the last team to play a league game, so they have ground to make up on everyone.
MTB: Forward Andrew Hamburg may be the name that most Badger fans are familiar with on this squad, but who else poses an offensive threat?
Ken: There are several real scoring threats for the Tigers. Rylan Schwartz (Jaden's older brother) led the Tigers in goal scoring last year with 23. Alexander Krushelnyski is a threat even-strength, on the PP and on the PK. Scott Winkler has a great shot and has a knack of finding space in the attacking zone.
MTB: The numbers for starter Josh Thorimbert (2.61GAA & .902 save %) rank him 10th in the WCHA in each category. Is it a byproduct of the defense in front of him or the competition CC has played. How do they correct it if at all?
Ken: Thorimbert's numbers are a bit inflated due to a less than stellar effort in the season opener, a 5-4 victory over Clarkson. Thorimbert was very sharp last weekend at Cornell. That being said, he can be better and I fully expect that he will be a better netminder moving forward.
MTB: What do you see as the biggest key for CC to pull off a win at the Kohl Center this weekend?
Ken: The Tigers need to improve their special teams this weekend. If the Tigers can tighten up their penalty killing and get a power-play goal or two, their job this weekend should be much easier. Another key is to ride out the emotion I expect the Badgers to play with early on Friday following the Bob Johnson dedication ceremony.
MTB: It's prediction time… If you are into that sort of thing.
Ken: Colorado College has played well against Wisconsin in the past decade or so. Scott Owens' teams have a 23-14-6 record against Wisconsin. The Tigers are 14-4-1 in their last 19 games vs. UW and 9-7-4 at the Kohl Center. I expect the Tigers to win one game this weekend, and if they can get the PP going, possible come out of their last WCHA series ever against the Badgers with three points.