first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoAll teams pay lip service to improving as a team as the season goes on. The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team, however, has been able to back that claim up with authority.The Badgers beat Michigan 3-0 and Michigan State 3-1 at the Kohl Center this weekend to finish at 7-1-1 for the month of November.Considering UW (7-7-2, 5-5-2 WCHA) stumbled to an 0-6-1 record in October, the quick turnaround has been pretty impressive.“It has almost been two different seasons so far,” senior forward Tom Gorowsky said. “Until we got a win, we were almost hanging our heads, but we were working hard the whole time. Since we got a win, we have been a pretty good team. … It has been ups and downs, but I think we kept getting better.”“We were talking a month ago about biking uphill against the wind,” head coach Mike Eaves added. “And now we are downhill with the wind at out back.”Saturday, Eaves’ team hosted the No. 14 Wolverines (9-7-0, 5-5-0 CCHA), who were fresh off a 6-3 drubbing of No. 1 Minnesota. UM took that momentum and put UW on its heels early, not allowing a shot on goal from the Badgers until seven minutes into the game. Despite not generating many scoring chances early, Eaves’ team held their own, finishing the period scoreless.“The kids may have been somewhat nervous and uptight, because we didn’t have our legs early,” Eaves said. “We wanted to establish getting the puck in the zone, making their defensemen turn and go and get it and work hard for the puck in their zone. … It might have been a little bit of nerves.”After a scoreless second period, the Badgers finally got on board in the third frame when Michael Davies scored on a power play 2:55 into the period. Davies — who led the team in power play goals last year — put in the rebound from sophomore defenseman Brendan Smith’s shot to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead. Gorowsky also received credit for an assist.The goal served as a welcome back for Davies, who has spent much of the year on the bench despite being one of UW’s leading scorers last season.“This whole process with Michael is we want him to play at a higher level,” Eaves said. “That was our goal in having him sit out and watch. We just don’t want him to be a power play guy; we know that is his strength. We need him to be more for this team than just that.”“I kept working hard in practice,” Davies said. “It’s really all I could do. I was definitely getting better five on five in practice, and that helped this weekend. I thought we were generating a lot of chances.”UW gained a 2-0 lead after Gorowsky scored during a five minute man-advantage. Michigan’s Brian Lebler was assessed a major penalty for clipping, which resulted in UW defenseman Ryan McDonagh leaving the game with an injury.“Any time you get a five-minute power play, you know that you have to get out of there with at least one,” Gorowsky said. “Otherwise, even if you had chances, the penalty kill gets all the momentum. It was definitely important for us to get one in the net. … I was able to check it in after (Jamie) McBain made a great play and almost had it in there. It was really important to capitalize and kind of give Ryan some retribution.”Freshman Jordy Murray added an empty-netter with 22 seconds left to give UW a 3-0 victory. “It is probably the biggest game in terms of impact, getting us back to .500, beating a nationally ranked team,” Eaves said. “Those are all great things. This game will serve us well down the line because of the quality opponent that we played.”Friday, the Badgers rode their second line of Ben Grotting, John Mitchell and Matt Thurber to a 3-1 victory over the Spartans (4-9-3, 2-6-2 CCHA). Each member of the second unit chipped in a goal and an assist as UW dominated MSU, outshooting the Spartans 53-12.“That is a line we put together this week,” Eaves said. “We liked the way they looked in practice, and they continued that over the course of the game.”For senior goaltender Shane Connelly, the limited shot total he faced was a mixed blessing.“Absolutely it is difficult,” Connelly said about keeping his head in a game where he didn’t see much action. “It also doesn’t help when the other goalie is playing on his head like that. Your mind can start playing tricks on you, and you can start thinking negative thoughts. … On paper it might not look it, but these kind of games are scary.”After generating plenty of chances on the power play this season, UW scored all three of its goals at even strength against the Spartans. For Eaves, this was a step in the direction he wants his team to go.“I think in the big picture this is the best we have played,” Eaves said of his team’s five on five play, “because of the fact that we were productive five on five, and we didn’t give up a lot tonight.”last_img