Wisconsin (0-0-0) opens the 2015-16 season and this year's home schedule at the Kohl Center this Friday and Saturday against Northern Michigan.
The winner advances to play second-seeded Michigan State (17-15-2, 11-7-2 Big Ten) on Friday in the semifinals at 7 p.m. CT. The championship game takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. CT. The entire tournament airs live on BTN.
Games 1-2 | Wisconsin (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 Big Ten) vs. Northern Michigan (0-0-0, 0-0-0-0 WCHA)
Game Notes Complete men's hockey game notes in printable PDF format.
Last Meeting: L, 4-1 -- The Badgers were swept at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, falling in the second game of the Oct. 17-18 series. UW outshot NMU, 25-18, but trailed 2-0 with less than two minutes left in regulation and pulled its goaltender. NMU sandwiched a pair of empty-net goals around a Brad Navin strike for the 4-1 victory. NMU grabbed a 2-0 victory in the opener.
Series Notes: This marks the fifth consecutive year NMU opens its season with a series against the Badgers and would be the same for UW except for the Badgers’ trip to Alaska to open last season. UW is 3-5-0 against NMU the last four years, including 3-1-0 at the Kohl Center ... the two teams have met 82 times in history, beginning with the 1981 NCAA tournament ... many of the meetings between the two schools came between 1984–97, when both schools were members of the WCHA.
KEY NOTES TO CONSIDER •Wisconsin (0-0-0) begins the 2015–16 season with games on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10 at the Kohl Center against Northern Michigan. The Badgers are 6-7-0 in season openers since 2002 when Mike Eaves took over as head coach.
• Wisconsin officially began practice on Saturday, Oct. 3.
• The Badgers have opened three of the last four seasons with a series against NMU and are 3-5-0 in those contests. The teams split games at the Kohl Center to open the 2011–12 season, NMU swept UW at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to begin the 2012–13 and early in the 2014–15 campaign, while UW swept NMU to start 2013–14 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
• Senior defensemen Kevin Schulze and Eddie Wittchow serve as team co-captains, while junior forward Grant Besse will serve as the team’s assistant captain.
• Junior Grant Besse returns after leading the Badgers in goals and points last season. Besse tallied 11 goals and 22 points.
• Wisconsin returns 66.1 percent of its goals (39 of 59), 62.7 percent of its assists (64 of 102) and 64.0 percent of its points (103 of 161).
• The Badgers begin the season with 28 skaters on the roster. That is the largest roster at UW since the 2009–10 also boasted 28 members. Three of the 28 skaters on the roster that year did not see action.
• Wisconsin sits 11 victories away from reaching 200 on the Kohl Center ice, not counting exhibition contests. Since the building opened in 1998, UW has reached at least 11 victories at the Kohl Center in 10 of 17 seasons. Wisconsin has averaged slightly more than 11 wins per season at the Kohl Center, including five seasons of 14-plus victories. UW’s best single season record in the KC came in 2013-14 with a mark of 17-2-1.
• UW faces one of the tougher schedules in the nation this season, with an especially grueling stretch to start the campaign. The Badgers play six of their first 12 games against teams ranked in the top five of the preaseason USCHO.com poll, with at least one game against four of the top five teams. Of its 34 total games, Wisconsin will play 14 against teams ranked in the top 13 of the USCHO.com poll. Only three of UW’s series this year are against a team not receiving votes in the poll.
• Sophomore forward Cameron Hughes became just the second Badger drafted by the Boston Bruins when he went in the sixth round, 165th overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft this past June. Hughes, along with fellow sophomore forward Adam Rockwood, enter the season tied for the second-leading scorer spot from last season after each posted three goals and 13 points in their freshman season’s last year. Both spent most of the season at center.
• Junior Jedd Soleway ranked second on the team last season with seven goals and finished with nine points in 35 games played. He also finished second on the squad with 98 shots on goal, and shared second on the team with a pair of power-play markers. Soleway ranked 11th in the country in faceoff win percentage at .583. Soleway went 180-129 on faceoffs. Clarkson freshman Ben Dalpe led the nation with a .642 faceoff win percentage (97-54).
• Senior defenseman Kevin Schulze led the nation in 2014–15 with an average of 2.66 blocks per game, 0.11 shots-per-game better than Bemidji State defenseman Sam Windle (2.55). Schulze’s 93 blocks were four shy of Windle’s national lead. As a team, UW ranked 10th in the country with an average of 14.83 blocks per game.
• After having just four right-handed shots on the team in 2014-15, the Badgers will have nine for the upcoming season.
• Wisconsin will serve as host school for the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four set for April 7-9 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The Badgers last played host to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2006 when it was held at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The Badgers won the championship that season, defeating Boston College, 2-1, in the title game.
• Five Badgers were captains of their teams before arriving on campus including Kevin Schulze (Hill-Murray), Cullen Hurley (Academy of Holy Angels) and Jarod Zirbel (Notre Dame Academy), who each captained their high school teams, as well as Luke Kunin who served as a captain of the U.S. Under-18 Team and Patrick Sexton (Penticton) in the BCHL. Hurley also co-captained the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL. Eddie Wittchow (co-captain) and Grant Besse (assistant captain) will earn their stripes this season as captains of the Badgers.
• Wisconsin boasts 13 skaters who have championships on their resumes. Three Badgers (Besse, Davison, Zirbel) own high school state titles, two (Rockwood, Sexton) own BCHL titles, Hughes won an AJHL championship, Malone won a USHL crown, McGuire won an EJHL championship and Keryluk owns an USPHL win. In addition, Kunin won a under-18 world title and Jurusik won the NAHL regular-season crown. Others include Jurusik’s NAHL regular-season win, as well as Wittchow’s USHL western conference victory and Soleway’s BCHL division triumph.
• Seamus Malone led the USHL with a plus-29 in 2014–15 playing for Dubuque. Malone ranked 11th in the USHL last season with 58 points and 14th with 26 goals.
• Will Johnson led the USHL with 36 points through 30 games for the Madison Capitols last season before an injury ended his season.
• Matt Jurusik has a chance to become just the fifth UW true freshman goaltender of the modern era to start the first game of a season. He would join Joel Rumpel (2011–12), Curtis Joseph (1988–89), Gary Baxter (1982–83) and Jim Makey (1970–71) as freshman starting in their first possible collegiate games to start a season. Mike Dibble was a second-semester freshman and started the first game of the 1974–75 season after joing the Badgers for the second semester of the 1973–74 campaign. Wisconsin does boast a history of quality rookie goaltenders, including three who won what is now the WCHA Rookie of the Year award — Curtis Joseph, Mike Richter and Jim Carey. Most recently, Bernd Brückler was named to the 2001–02 WCHA All-Rookie Team.
• Wisconsin’s goaltending trio of senior Adam Miller, redshirt freshman Gabe Grunwald and freshman Matt Jurusik own a combined 42 minutes and seven seconds of game action. Miller made one appearance in during the 2012–13 season and one appearance in 2014–15.
• Jarod Zirbel is just the fourth player in UW’s history with a last name that starts with the letter ‘Z’. Coincidentally, three of those four have played for Wisconsin within the last three seasons. Morgan Zulinick (2012-15), Mark Zengerle (2010-14), and Jason Zent (1990-94) are the other three with ‘Z’ names.
• Santa Barabara, California native Will Johnson is the ninth Badger all-time to hail from the Golden State. In fact, five of those nine players have come during the 14-year tenure of head coach Mike Eaves, with Robbie Earl (2003-06), Matthew Ford (2004-08), Brendan Woods (2011-13) and Nic Kerdiles (2012-14). The other four California Badgers are Chris Chelios (1981-83), Mike McGrath (1983-85), Rob Mendel (1986-90) and Chris Nelson (1988-92).
• Wisconsin will celebrate a pair of NCAA championship anniversaries this season. The 1980–81 team returns for the 35th anniversary of their title the weekend of Nov. 21, while the 2005–06 Badgers return to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the school’s sixth NCAA title the weekend of Jan. 30. The UW women’s team will also be celebrating their 2006 NCAA title that same weekend.
• Head coach Mike Eaves is behind the bench for his 14th season at Wisconsin. The Badgers own one NCAA title (2006), two Frozen Four appearances (2006, 2010), seven NCAA tournament appearances and two conference tournament titles (2013, 2014) during Eaves’ tenure. Eaves has seen 28 of his former Badgers go on to play in the NHL, as well as over 60 of his former players go on to play some sort of professional hockey (NHL, AHL, ECHL, overseas). Fifty NHL drafted skaters have played at Wisconsin under Eaves.
• Wisconsin hockey boasts five new staff members including associate head coach Luke Strand, assistant coach JB Bittner, director of hockey operations John Hamre, video coordinator Emily Engen and primary care Dr. Andrew Watson.
• For the new coaches, associate head coach Luke Strand came to UW from a year as general manager and coach of the first-year Madison Capitols of the USHL. He played college hockey for UW-Stevens Point. New assistant coach JB Bittner, who played his college hockey at Ohio State, arrived in Madison from a two-year assistant coaching stint for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm in Kearney, Nebraska.