Men’s hockey returns to ice against UMD

first_imgForward Andy Bombach (11) and the men\’s hockey team will try to break through the WCHA\’s top goaltender Alex Stalock against UMD.[/media-credit]Much of the talk surrounding the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team’s opponent this weekend — the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs — tends to revolve around one individual: junior goaltender Alex Stalock.And for good reason.Stalock leads the WCHA in goals against average (2.24 per game) and save percentage (.921). But it’s his style of play that seems to garner equally as much attention.“He’s one of a kind, for sure,” UW defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “He likes to play the puck and he’s real active and comes out and really challenges the shooter. He makes you think twice before you shoot the puck.”“He comes out of the crease, and he’s kind of like a third defenseman, we like to call it,” forward Andy Bohmbach said. “You try to keep the puck away from him as much as you can so he doesn’t fire it up the ice.”For Bohmbach, though, Stalock’s unique goaltending style is nothing new — the two have faced off against each other since high school.“I actually played against him when I grew up,” Bohmbach said. “He’s from South St. Paul and I’m from Hudson and we were in the same league, so I’m kind of used to it now. He’s definitely a one-of-a-kind goaltender.”As good as Stalock is, however, the Badgers (13-10-3, 10-6-2 WCHA) were just a bit better when they faced the Bulldogs (13-7-6, 7-6-5 WCHA) back in mid-November. In a weekend series in Duluth, Wisconsin beat Stalock seven times in two games: a 3-3 overtime tie and a 4-1 victory. It took UW just 28 shots to get three pucks past Stalock in Friday’s tie but had to fire 38 times on the junior netminder Saturday for the 4-1 win.Patience, says Stalock’s counterpart Shane Connelly, will be the key to get past him again.“A lot of times he likes to make the first move and then make you think about that. He’s really athletic at getting back into position,” said Connelly, who made 28 saves in UW’s win over UMD. “If we’re patient, we can expose him by his over-aggressiveness.”While Stalock has been solid in net for Minnesota Duluth, the Bulldog forwards have been equally as impressive. The top four scorers — wingers Justin Fontaine and Mike Connolly and centers MacGregor Sharp and Jack Connolly — have all scored over 20 points on the season.Much like the Badgers, the Bulldog offense has been a committee of sorts. Fontaine has led the way with 12 goals and 34 points, and Sharp’s 11 goals and 15 assists aren’t far behind.“They’re going to create interesting matchups,” Connelly said. “Their strength is in their forwards. They’re going to try to dictate our D down low and keep their puck possession. They’re just a bunch of guys who work hard.”“They’re quick and small and fast and shifty, so we’ve got to make sure we’re smart in our D zone and not get too fancy,” McDonagh said.When the two teams clash at the Kohl Center Friday night, it will be a meeting of the hot versus the rested. Minnesota-Duluth is riding a four-game winning streak after sweeps of Bemidji State and Minnesota State. Meanwhile, the Badgers had last weekend off, allowing players to recover for the grind of the WCHA schedule.“We had a chance to relax a little bit, but at the same time we kept our practice speed up and we definitely battled all week,” Bohmbach said. “I wouldn’t say it was an off week for us really at all. The only thing off was not playing any games [last] weekend.”Wisconsin has just 10 games remaining, including this weekend’s series. Currently sitting in third in the WCHA standings — just two points behind No. 1 Denver and three points ahead of No. 6 Duluth — the Badgers hold their postseason fate in their own hands.“It feels good to be in control,” Bohmbach said. “I think that’s where we want to be. We just can’t slack off in these last couple of weekends. … We need every point we can get, even if it’s a tie.”last_img

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