Badgers ink six newcomers during early signing period


Eaves

Nov. 21, 2013

MADISON, Wis. –- Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Mike Eaves has announced the additions of six student-athletes, a list comprised of Jack Dougherty (Cottage Grove, Minn.), Keegan Ford (Waunakee, Wis.), Gabe Grunwald (Chappaqua, N.Y.), Jake Linhart (Brookfield, Wis.), Matthew Ustaski (Glenview, Ill.) and Ryan Wagner (Park Ridge, Ill.). All six signed National Letters of Intent and are expected to join the Badgers for the fall of 2014, pending admission to the university.

Dougherty, a 6-foot and 185-pound defenseman from Cottage Grove, Minn., helped the U.S. U18 Select Team to a second-place finish at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, leading all U.S. defensemen in points (1-2=3) over five games. He currently skates for the U.S National Team Development Program’s under-18 team.

“Jack has a really good skill set as a defenseman,” Eaves stated. “He can be your quarterback on the power play and he can lead the rush. He’s a good skater who sees the ice well and has good skill. He also understands how to play without the puck, so he is a well-rounded defenseman.”

Playing for his high school, St. Thomas Academy, Dougherty was part of two Class A state championship squads, tallying six goals, 39 assists and 45 points in two seasons. He has been projected as a second- or third-round pick in the NHL draft by USHL.com. He also took part in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh on Sept. 26. The game brought together the country’s top 40 draft-eligible prospects.

Wagner, a 5-8 and 173-pound center, is currently a teammate of Dougherty with the U.S. Under-18 Team and tallied a goal in the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Also on his resume are 46 points (20-26=46) in two seasons for the Chicago Mission Midget Minor program and a 2013 Bauer National Invitational Tournament MVP award.

“He is a miniscule power forward, which speaks to his competitiveness,” explained Eaves. “It seems like when he needs an extra gear, he can find it. He knows the game well and has good skill. I think our fans will enjoy watching this young man play.”

Wisconsin legacy student-athlete Keegan Ford, son of former Wisconsin center (1984-88) and assistant coach (1994-2002) Pat Ford, adds to the class. The 5-8 and 180-pound defenseman will come to the Badgers by way of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, where he tallied 16 points in his first year before posting one goal and five assists so far this season. Prior to joining the Fighting Saints, he netted 74 points in just 27 games for Waunakee High School as a sophomore.

“Keegan is the son of Pat Ford, who played here,” Eaves said. “He is a defenseman who plays with great spirit. He’s got great puck skills and is a guy you want on your team. He can break the puck out, he can make the pass to get out of the zone. Very well-rounded defenseman who will be a very good addition to our squad.”

Ford isn’t the only recruit with UW connections, as Linhart’s father, Barry, played golf for the Badgers. The 5-10 and 176-pound defender has made a name for himself in his own right, however, netting a goal and seven assists in 58 games for the Green Bay Gamblers in 2012-13. This season, Linhart boasts seven assists in 16 games after coming to the team from the Chicago Mission U-16 team. He was coached at Mission by Gino Cavallini, father of current Badger Aidan Cavallini, who called him one of the nation’s 10 best defenseman for his birth year.

“He’s a very good skating, puck-handling defenseman who played two years in the USHL, which I think will help his transition to college hockey,” Eaves explained. “He will be an impactful addition.”

Grunwald, at 6-3 and 195 pounds, will look to add to the Wisconsin legacy of great goaltending. Spending this season playing for the New York Bobcats in the newly-formed Eastern Hockey League, Grunwald sports a 2.44 GAA and .930 save percentage. He has also spent a season in the Ontario Junior Hockey League and three years in the North American Hockey League. While in the OJHL, Grunwald became the first goaltender in league history to record and shutout and score a goal in the same game.

His father, Glen, is the former general manager of the NBA’s New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors.

“Gabe is a young goaltender whose two greatest qualities are that he is big and that he is athletic,” Eaves said. “The things that he has you don’t teach — size and athleticism. That’s a good place to start, coming in and being a goalie at the college level.”

Ustaski, a left-handed forward, rounds out the early signing class. An imposing presence at 6-6 and 225 pounds, Ustaski comes to the Badgers from the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen. Through 25 games this season, Ustaski boasts nine goals and 14 points. Last season, Ustaski posted 11 goals and 27 points over 55 games.

“Matt would fall into the category of a classic power forward,” Eaves said. “He is 6-6 and somewhere between 220 and 225. He played high school at Lake Forest Academy before playing the last two seasons in the BCHL. As his game has grown in leaps and bounds the last couple of years, I think we are just starting to see the potential he has. He moves well for a big man and has good hands. There is a lot of untapped potential there and we are excited to have Matt with us.”

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown Current Team
Jack Dougherty D 6-0 185 Cottage Grove, Minn. U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Keegan Ford D 5-8 180 Waunakee, Wis. Dubuque (USHL)
Gabe Grunwald G 6-3 195 Chappaqua, N.Y. New York (EHL)
Jake Linhart D 5-10 176 Brookfield, Wis. Green Bay (USHL)
Matthew Ustaski F 6-2 195 Glenview, Ill. Langley (BCHL)
Ryan Wagner F 5-8 173 Park Ridge, Ill. U.S. NTDP (USHL)
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