Wisconsin is ready to prove it deserves a coveted spot in the Frozen Four when it faces RIT for the first time in program history on Thursday, one more stop on its mission to bring its seventh national title back to Madison.
The Badgers are led by a pair of Hobey Baker finalists in Blake Geoffrion and Brendan Smith. Recently, Geoffrion has also been named a Hobey hat trick candidate and the Most Outstanding Player of the Western Region, padding his individual award accomplishments. He leads the country in power-play goals and is ready to lead his team to the NCAA championship as Wisconsin embarks on its 11th Frozen Four appearance.
Geoffrion, one of three senior captains, is crucial to the Badgers'
offense. He’s described as one of college hockey’s most complete
players, with 27 goals, 14 of which came on the man advantage. He also thrives in
clutch situations for his team, particularly in the playoffs. In six
postseason games, he has earned 11 points, including two game-winning
goals and two power-play goals.
Though Wisconsin returns to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2006 — when it beat Boston College to capture its last title — it is certainly no stranger to the NCAA scene. The Badgers' road to the tournament began when they slipped by Vermont 3-2 in the regional semifinals before eliminating St. Cloud State 5-3 in the regional finals.
Even though the Badgers have no firsthand experience against their opponent, head coach Mike Eaves knows exactly what has made his team successful all season and what it will need to continue doing in the coming week.
“We need to win the foot races and battles along the boards," Eaves said. "With our ability to play strong, we need to show it in front of the net. Our special teams will need to be ready to go, including utilizing our TWIG theory: just taking what’s given to us on the power play."
Wisconsin is known to play a hard-nosed, physical, in-your-face style of hockey. As long as the Babdgers can maintain a disciplined game and keep penalties to a minimum, they pose a brutally tough challenge to any opponent.
"The base of our pyramid is to play hard," Eaves said. "You have to give yourself a chance to win when you play hard and play physical. Playing hard is part of what you have to do in this game to win. As I said, we don't want to take penalties but we want to be on that edge."
For much of the season, the Badgers' offense has been primarily dominated by four scorers. Both Michael Davies and Derek Stepan have hit over 50 points, while Geoffrion and Smith have combined for 95 points.
Eaves knows how crucial it will be for his senior leaders to bring their A-game in order for the Badgers' success to continue.
"In [the postseason], they played the way they are capable of," Eaves said. "If you're going to win these types of games, your best players have to be your best players. They were that for us throughout the playoffs and will need to continue to be next week."