Gudmandson steps up game; defensive duo key to success

first_imgJake Gardiner and the Badgers have relied on stellar defense to lead Wisconsin to 17 victories.[/media-credit]The prolonged success of any hockey team always starts between the pipes.Thanks to the play of his senior goaltender, Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Mike Eaves is spending a lot of time talking about it. Scott Gudmandson put together a pair of tremendous performances this past weekend as UW swept Minnesota State, and along with his impressive string of outings comes plenty of praise and chatter.Gudmandson has established himself as the top goaltender in the WCHA conference and it would be hard to find a netminder playing better anywhere across the country. He’s been the backbone of Eaves’ young squad all season and is now 10-2 in his last 12 starts.Eaves was asked Monday to compare Gudmandson to former Badger great Brian Elliot, who led Wisconsin to the national title in 2006. Elliot had stretches of dominance for the Badgers and was named a Hobey Baker finalist during his junior season.Eaves understands the desire to compare the two UW goaltenders but preferred to praise the present work of Gudmandson and leave the comparisons for others.“It’s always tough to compare and I know its human nature to do that,” Eaves said. “The biggest thing is that Scotty is playing as good as he ever has here. That’s the thing we focus on right now and talk about right now. He is making the first stop, most of the time controlling his rebounds and he is really handling the puck well.”“You could take a look and say, ‘Well, is he as good as Brian?’ because that would be the comparison,” Eaves added. “They are different types of goaltenders. Bottom line, they’re both stopping the pucks and had good numbers.”Bennett bringing out the bestSenior goaltender Brett Bennett may be relegated to watching on game night while Gudmandson continues his hot streak in net for the Badgers, but he’s making his presence known in practice.Gudmandson can never let up because Bennett is constantly driving up the competitiveness during practice sessions.“One of the reasons Scott works so hard in practice is because Brett is pushing him,” Eaves said. “When we play any small area game, they know exactly what the score is and they don’t want to lose that game. Having that internal competition has pushed Scott to stay at a high level.”Bennett came to UW after transferring from Boston University with the hope of starting on a regular basis for the Badgers, but that hasn’t panned out with Gudmandson taking the reins. Bennett has also been underwhelming as of late, evidenced by a lackluster showing in a 6-5 overtime victory three weeks ago over Canisius.Despite that disappointment and lack of playing time, Bennett has made a good impression on Eaves.“He has been a real good teammate,” Eaves said. “He wants to be in that net, but he knows that Scott is playing well.”Riding the horsesIce time isn’t a recorded statistic in college hockey, but observers of the Wisconsin hockey team would be interested to see the results so far this season.UW gets the most out of its top defensive pairing featuring Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz (29 and 36 points, respectively), and the two D-men hardly get a breather. But Eaves and his staff aren’t all that interested in the exact number of minutes his top players receive.Clearly, Gardiner and Schultz have proven they deserve to be out there.“We don’t need to get into that at this level,” Eaves said. “They are horses and you can go to them pretty often. When they are a little tired, it probably makes them smarter, which makes them more effective because they aren’t running up and down the ice. They have to conserve their energy.”“They are in good shape. Because of that fact, we can ride them pretty often.”last_img

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