Eaves happy with Badgers’ depth as team looks toward postseason

first_imgJunior goalie Scott Gudmandson, along with fellow junior Brett Bennett, has provided solid depth for Coach Eaves and the Badgers at the goaltending position as the regular season rapidly closes.[/media-credit]Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Mike Eaves has enjoyed the contribution he has received from his fourth line this year and does not expect them to let up any time soon.Although senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion is the only Badger with over 20 goals this season, the Badgers have three other players with 10 or more goals and are not afraid to let their third and fourth lines shoot the puck.“When you are playing a 60-minute game and you are playing 120 minutes over the course of the weekend, if you can roll four lines there is a gradual wearing down,” Eaves said.Eaves has repeatedly said this season he looks to the fourth line to provide energy for the team. Any offense they provide is considered a bonus; the Badgers got that extra contribution Saturday when senior forwards Andy Bohmbach and Ben Grotting combined for two goals and two assists in Wisconsin’s 8-4 win.The Badgers have both grinded out hard-fought, one-goal victories and ran away with blowouts throughout the year, but the constant has been the overall level of depth. That depth helps keep the team fresh during the course of a long season.The Badgers appear to be playing their best hockey late this year, and much of that can be attributed to how fresh they are. According to Eaves, all of the great championship teams “have that factor: depth.”Adding to the team’s depth has been the outstanding play of junior goaltenders Scott Gudmandson and Brett Bennett, who each received starts again this weekend. They have kept each other fresh and split time over the course of the year, aside from a period where Bennett was out with a shoulder injury. The team will continue to use both players, at least until the playoffs.Eaves said the team would not make a decision regarding the use of primarily one goalie until the end of the season, when he and the coaching staff will evaluate both goaltenders.Badgers look good heading into stretch runAt 29 games into the season, the Badgers boast a record of 18-7-4, tied for third in the WCHA standings. An important series against St. Cloud State looms this weekend, as the Huskies are currently second in the conference, with a two-point lead over Wisconsin.Every team wants to be playing its best hockey of the year as the regular season winds down, which is what the Badgers appear to be doing after victories in the Camp Randall Hockey Classic and a weekend sweep of Minnesota State. But the Badgers will also be skating on fresher legs than most teams.With one of his deepest teams ever, Eaves is hoping the depth can carry the Badgers deep into the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin has six games left and is sitting in a prime position approaching the WCHA and NCAA tournaments.In comparison to the 2005-2006 NCAA championship team, Eaves said he “thinks the ’05-’06 team was pretty potent.”“I think this team is offensively, depth-wise, a little stronger than that team,” Eaves added.UW is currently second in the nation in scoring offense.UW’s No. 3 ranking in both the USCHO.com and USA Today polls supports that endorsement. With a veteran team that has settled into a groove, it isn’t hard to see why Eaves is optimistic as the end of the season draws closer.“It’s exciting, it’s fun for the kids,” Eaves said. “We don’t have to talk about a lot; we just go back to the process of worrying about what we can do on a day to day basis.”last_img

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