Sunday, March 30, 2008

A silver lining from the hockey team? Nope

Yesterday the Badger hockey team upset Denver in the first round of regional play at the Kohl Center, moving UW into position to make the Frozen Four with a win over North Dakota tonight. Didn't happen - Bucky blew a 2-0 lead heading into the third period and lost 3-2 in overtime.

A lot of people thought the Badgers didn't deserve to make the tournament, seeing as how they had a sub-.500 record and all. But their strength of schedule didn't lie, and for all the kvetching the win over Denver proved the Badgers belonged. But there will be no reprisal of the "Backdoor Badgers" team that controversially made the tournament a generation ago and went on to win the whole ball of wax.

Two years ago on this night Andy and I were in attendance at the Resch Center in Green Bay for the epic three-overtime win over Cornell that went Wisconsin onto the Frozen Four in Milwaukee. There, the Badgers won the national title. We've seen mixed results since then for Mike Eaves' program.

Last year's step back was understandable, given the number of early departures that hit the program and the abundance of injuries to key players. This year's team was very young, too. But that's the way it is in college hockey now - everyone's losing guys early - look at poor Minnesota, which lost their best player to the NHL midseason. And Eaves has been bringing in very highly-rated recruiting classes. It's time for these players to start living up to their billing and showing that the 2006 national championship was not an aberration, but a sign of things to come.