UW’s back-to-basics mentality pays off

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoIt was not perfection, but it was a step in the right direction.Coming off the absolute low point in their season a week ago at Minnesota State, the Badgers needed to turn themselves around and build up some momentum heading into the postseason.That turnaround came with a sweep — 1-0 and 3-1 victories over St. Cloud State — and Wisconsin grabbing a share of second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it got the job done.”Since my freshman year, I don’t think we’ve won two games in a row going into the stretch for playoffs,” senior assistant captain Tom Gilbert said. “It’s kind of [been] a momentum killer for us, my freshman through my junior year. This is a first, and it’s something to build off of … and get on this winning way again.”Last week’s practices centered around getting back to the basics of hockey and enjoying playing the game, as the players have all their lives. That tactic seemed to work throughout the weekend.Last weekend, UW allowed the Mavericks a variety of opening looks; this weekend, the Badgers got back to blocking shots and clearing rebounds away from the front of the net.”Blocked shots, 50/50 pucks, races to pucks, those are all the little things that [are] a foundation of the game,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “If you don’t do those things, you aren’t going to win.”More specifically, junior goaltender Brian Elliott got back to his basics, working his angles and getting comfortable between the pipes. As a result, he began looking like the netminder that led the nation in both major goaltending statistics through much of the season.”He’s getting pretty close to being in the state he needs to be in.” Eaves said. “Whenever you’re going to go into a playoff, the success you’re going to have starts right between the pipes.”The Badgers returned to the basics and got back to winning in their final regular season matchup. That may not stop their postseason foes from feeling like Wisconsin is unbeatable — as many teams undoubtedly felt just two months ago — but Gilbert thinks that may work to their advantage.”To me, I feel as if we play our best when we are underdogs,” Gilbert said. “This past month and a half has been a downfall for us and this weekend is hopefully just a jolt for us to wake up and realize we are the underdogs the rest of the way.”Special weekend for senior class: Prior to Saturday night’s regular season finale, the Badgers honored the five members of this season’s senior class. To further emphasize the importance of this particular group, Eaves started all five of them — Adam Burish, A.J. Degenhardt, Gilbert, Nick Licari and Ryan MacMurchy.While it didn’t take long for that jumbled group of five to get off the ice and get into its normal rotation of lines, the group didn’t disappoint, notching four points on the night between them.It started when Burish assisted on Joe Pavelski’s goal in the opening minute of the game. Not only did it give the Badgers the early lead, but it ensured that they were focused despite the pregame ceremonies.”You never know what you’re going to get on a Senior Night,” Eaves said. “That’s the best start we could’ve hoped for.”Gilbert later scored on a freak goal seconds into the second period and picked up the primary assist on MacMurchy’s goal, which Eaves said might have been the most important of the night.”Probably the biggest goal was the response on the power play after we got scored on,” Eaves said. “That gave us a little strength there going down the backstretch.”Badgers lose Piskula: While it was important for the Badgers to get back to blocking shots in front of Elliott, it cost them one of their most solid defensemen in the process.Sophomore Joe Piskula — arguably the most-improved player on UW’s roster — blocked a big shot in Friday night’s game and paid the price.”You look back at the beginning of the year, and we were blocking shots left and right,” Elliott said after Friday’s game. “I think in the first period, Piskula had one from the point, and he took it, and it hurt. But that’s what you’ve got to do. We want those ice bags on at the end of the night.”And while that blocked shot seemed like a motivator on Friday night, come Saturday it proved more costly.While Piskula returned to Friday night’s game after blocking that shot, he was unable to be in the lineup on Saturday, and Eaves said the sophomore could be out for much of the postseason.”I think the window is going to be anywhere from two weeks to four weeks, depending on his ability to heal,” Eaves said.The speedy blue-liner with a big frame will definitely be missed against a scrappy Michigan Tech squad and whatever other teams the Badgers may face throughout the postseason.last_img read more

Syracuse’s tightened defense leads to 4-1 victory over Vermont

first_imgEven as SU tightened up defensively, van der Velde was tested again. Twenty four minutes into the second half, she took two quick steps to her near post, kicking the ball wide of her cage to prevent UVM from cutting into the Orange lead. She then made another block just 20 seconds later, mopping up the area in front of goal. After those two saves, van der Velde didn’t face another shot on goal in the last 10 minutes. Those shots were the only two UVM placed on the cage in the second half. Even as the Catamounts pressed higher and higher up the field, they attempted wayward shots that ended well wide of the cage. Lagerweij may be gone, but SU has had multiple players play lots of minutes in her absence. Freshman Laura Graziosi, sophomore Steph Harris, and junior Claire Webb all helped defensively to maintain SU’s lead in the second half. “With her spot open, other people have stepped up,” Weers said. “Obviously we miss her, we miss everyone who leaves.” In the opening 20 minutes of the game, Vermont drew three penalty corners, a penalty shot, and posted three shots on goal. As Weers and Syracuse’s young lineup settled into its first game of the season, the Orange began to suffocate the Catamount attack in the middle third of the game. Syracuse scored two late goals in the first half, then stifled the Vermont attack by holding the Catamounts without a shot on goal for almost 30 minutes. Vermont’s lone goal came on a penalty shot after a foul was committed on the SU goal line. “We had a little bit more control in the second half,” Weers said. “Obviously we were a little nervous in the first game of the season, you work so hard in the preseason.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith 12 minutes left in the first half, Vermont tested sophomore goalie Borg van der Velde, who made a critical kick save with her feet. At that point, both teams had posted four shots on goal, and Vermont appeared the more likely to net a second. Three open field giveaways in Syracuse’s defensive half nearly cost the Orange on the scoreboard, as SU needed van der Velde to make three first-half saves.Early in the second half, SU head coach Ange Bradley began snapping her fingers in a circling motion, urging her team forward, to press higher up the field, and win the ball back, she said.“We’re slow right now, we’ve got to get faster, we’ve got to get more pressure on the ball, and we’ve got to make reads quicker,” Bradley said. “From the sidelines, you can help tempo that a bit, and get them to identify that we need more aggression.”Weers and van der Velde worked together to help communicate with the underclassmen without Lies Lagerweij’s presence anymore. Both voices could be heard all the way from the bleachers at J.S. Coyne Stadium, calling out commands to push further up the field to press, or drop deeper to prevent a counterattack. Weers is forced to be more of a communicator this year on the field, Bradley said. Throughout spring practices and scrimmages and summer pre-season, Bradley has been impressed. “She’s doing great,” Bradley said. “Roos had a really good preseason and stepped up and (has) taken on additional responsibilities, and we don’t want to overstretch her that she loses who she is.” Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on August 24, 2018 at 5:59 pm Contact Anthony: amdabbun@syr.edu Moments after Vermont’s third penalty corner of the first half, Roos Weers made a crucial block right in front of goal with her stick. Then, while ripping off her facemask and throwing it into the grass behind the goal, she raced to her right, stealing the ball from the attacking Catamount, and playing a long pass up the field.That transition and ensuing attack led to a penalty corner. Syracuse converted that corner into a 2-1 lead as Laura Graziosi netted a backhand top shelf. The Orange scored a quick third, a penalty corner goal from Weers, and a fourth early in the second half, as Syracuse defeated Vermont 4-1 to open its 2018 season Friday.last_img read more