DETROIT (WAOW) - The Wisconsin men's hockey team (27-10-4) hopes to continue its quest for a seventh national title Thursday afternoon when the team battles RIT (28-11-1) at the Frozen Four in Detroit.
Wisconsin heads into the Frozen Four after a regional semifinal victory over Vermont and a regional final victory over St. Cloud State. Aside from the team's two victories, senior tri-captain Blake Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn.) was named the MVP of the West Regional. Wednesday, Geoffrion picked up the Inside College Hockey Player of the Year award.
A member of the Hobey Baker Hat Trick, he leads the WCHA in goals with 27 and is second nationally in the same category. His 14 power-play goals top any other player in the country, and his 48 total points lands him at third on one of the nation's top-scoring teams.
Though relentless on offense, Geoffrion is a prominent force in the team's penalty kill. Furthermore, the future Nashville Predator wins nearly 60 percent of his faceoffs.
The fourth-seeded RIT Tigers enter the matchup after upsetting top-seeded Denver in the regional semifinal and topping New Hampshire in the regional final. Only in its fifth season in the NCAA, RIT and Wisconsin have never met.
The winner of the semifinal game will battle the winner of the Boston College/Miami semifinal game in the national championship contest Saturday night.
In its fifth tournament appearance in eight years under head coach Mike Eaves, Wisconsin caught fire at the right time. Having lost only three times since the beginning of February, the Badgers average nearly five goals per game in their three postseason victories so far.
The team's 3.98 goals-per-game mark land Wisconsin second in the nation. This is credited in large part to the play of Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn.). The forward leads the WCHA in goals and leads the nation with his 14 power-play goals. His 48 points (27-21=48) put him at third on the team.
Leading the team in scoring is senior forward Michael Davies (St. Louis) with 51 points (19-32=51). His 1.31 points-per-game mark is tops in the league as well. Creeping on his heels is sophomore forward Derek Stepan (Hastings, MInn.) who enters the Frozen Four with 50 points (10-40=50).
The scoring has also poured into the defensemen. Junior Brendan Smith presents himself as a star blue liner for the Badgers so far. Aside from his relentless defense, the INCH Defenseman of the Year is the top scorer among all rear guards. His 47 points (15-32=47) put him in a close fourth place on the squad.
This is the first season since 1993-94 that UW has boasted four 40-point scorers in a single season.
Defensively, sophomore Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka, Minn.) leads the team with a plus-25 mark. Junior net minder Scott Gudmandson (Sherwood Park, Alberta) has also caught fire as of late. He leads the Badgers with a 19-4-4 record, .915 save percentage and 2.32 goals-against average.
Tying their up-tempo offense and relentless defense together, the Badgers hope to keep the season rolling, and it all starts Thursday against RIT. The game can be viewed live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (CT). Fans can also follow the action on ESPN360.com.
The Badger Radio Network with Brian Posick and Mike Cerniglia will also carry the game on Madison's WIBA-FM 101.5 and WIBA-AM 1310.
For live stats, audio stream and live blog, check out UWBadgers.com.
Courtesy: UW Press Release