Sunday, January 28, 2007

Saturday's Miscellaneous Notes

A lot of talk in the post-game centered around the events at the end of the second period, with Jack Skille's goal and then the scrum by the benches just a few seconds later. But in my mind, it was how the Badgers played in the other 59 minutes of the game that really made the difference. The game was almost a reverse of Friday night with the Mavericks being the team that came out really flat in the first period.

"I thought it was a good game after the first period," said Maverick coach Troy Jutting.

The biggest difference between Friday and Saturday night was that Wisconsin came out in the first period and really set the tone on Saturday night. Mike Eaves tried to make every excuse for his team on Friday night, saying the Wisconsin was coming off a bye week, and wasn't able to practice on the Kohl Center ice all week, though it should be noted that both statements were also true for their opponents.

Mike Eaves said he wasn't as hard on his team after Friday's loss as he might have been earlier in the season. "We’re at that time of the year when I have to get off my soapbox and they have to be responsible," said Eaves.

I mentioned Mike Davies quote about the importance of Wisconsin getting the lead in my game recap, and I think that's a really big thing for the Badgers. Mike Eaves really stresses to his players the idea of being "patiently persistent," but I think that strategy works better when they're in the lead.

Mike Eaves downplayed "The Shane Connelly" effect after the game, as did Jake Dowell who said "We were frustrated with last night. I don't think it makes a difference if Shane is in or Brian is in."

But it is interesting that Connelly has started three games the Saturday after a loss and has only allowed one goal total. Part of that could also be because Connelly is really improving as a goalie.

"When I see Shane in practice, he's stopping more pucks. His teammates would tell you that it's getting harder and harder to beat him in practice," said Eaves.

Troy Jutting seems to be on some sort of septuple secret probation with the WCHA. He was pretty subdued, yet again, on the bench, despite a pretty controversial play going against Minnesota State at the end of the second period.

Jutting said he didn't see the play involving Skille and Brownlee, though his tone and expression said otherwise. He would have been more believable if he said he was the Queen of England. I half expected him to break out the Rasheed Wallace "Both teams played hard" line.

He was even more brief when describing the start of the fight in front of his bench. When asked if he saw what started the fight, he gave a simple nod and said "Mmhmm," and when asked if he wanted to elaborate, just said "No."

Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal asked him if his tongue was bleeding.

Travis Morin maintained that he wasn't involved in the fight at the end of the second period, and looking at Morin's track record as a player, it's certainly believable. On his way from the penalty box to the locker room after the second period was over, he swung by referee Marco Hunt to let him know how he felt about the call.

The non-call on Skille was a mistake by Marco Hunt, but it was an honest mistake. The second period was extremely physical, and you can't really blame him for keeping an eye at what was going on behind the play. It's tough for one referee to see the entire ice. Is that an argument for having two referees on the ice for games? Perhaps, but it's anecdotal, and there are also situations where two referees would hurt.

I get as frustrated as anybody with the quality of officiating in the WCHA, but I can live with guys making the occassional mistake like that, because they are human. I get frustrated when I see each team held to a different standard on the ice by the officials, and I certainly don't think that was the case this weekend. Missing an obvious call that leads to a big goal is certainly way less subtle than not calling an obstruction penalty on one team after calling the same play on the opposing team earlier in the game, but also much more forgivable.

Wisconsin ended up getting an extra penalty out the fight at the end of the second period, but the penalties ended up benefiting the Badgers more than the Mavericks. The Mavericks lost three forwards for 14 minutes of game time, and due to some injuries, coach Jutting said they only had 7 available forwards for that stretch. The Mavericks were also without their entire top line with Travis Morin in the penalty box and Jon Kalinski and Mick Berge out with injurues.