Hockey earns surpising spot in NCAA’s

first_imgFollowing last weekend?s loss to St. Cloud in the WCHAplayoffs, UW goaltender Shane Connelly said he hoped the hockey gods weresmiling down on the Badger hockey team.Considering UW earned a berth in this year?s NCAAtournament, the gods must have been grinning from ear to ear.Everything that needed to fall into place for Wisconsin tomake the tournament did. Notre Dame lost in its conference playoffs. TheMinnesota Golden Gophers kept winning. And Princeton won the ECAC Tournament.Despite a sub-.500 record and a losing streak of threegames, the Badgers are in, and they will face WCHA Tournament champion Denverat the Kohl Center Saturday.For Connelly and Co. to sneak in, there was no doubt a senseof surprise and jubilation.?I heard that we might be in,? Connelly said. ?But I watchedthat selection show, and a smile came on my face. We have a second chance, so Iwas pretty excited.?The Badgers were given a No. 3 seed in the 16-teamtournament. But the fact that they are still playing hockey at all is somethingmany people didn?t expect of Mike Eaves? squad.?It?s new life,? team captain Davis Drewiske said. ?Itdoesn?t matter how we got here; we?re here. So we?ll just take advantage ofit.?Saturday?s contest will pit two schools that have won theNCAA title three out of the past four years. Wisconsin laid claim to the trophyin 2006, while Denver won back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005.The two teams split their only series of the year in Denver.The Pioneers came out on top of the first game 3-2 after a controversialno-call on a Matthew Ford goal. But UW came back with a statement win in theseries finale, topping the Pioneers 7-2.Thoughts of the no-goal call that cost them a potentialpoint in the 3-2 loss have lingered with the team, but Ford knows it?s time tomove on and take the good from what transpired in January.?I remember coach [Mark Osiecki] saying something onSaturday morning (after the loss) going, ?This could be a turning point,?? Fordsaid. ?And I think the next 10 games or so we played a lot better. So maybethat was what kind of gave us that boost to get us into where we are now.?Should Wisconsin win against Denver, it will take on the winnerof the North Dakota-Princeton series, also taking place Saturday in Madison.The winner of the Midwest regional will earn a spot in the Frozen Four inDenver.Also making the tournament from the WCHA ? arguably thetoughest conference in college hockey ? aside from UW, Denver and North Dakotawas Colorado College (No. 2 seed), St. Cloud State (No. 2 seed) and Minnesota(No. 3 seed). One conference team that will be on the outside looking in is theMinnesota State Mavericks, who boasted a better record than Wisconsin andtopped the Badgers in head-to-head play this season. But due to the computerrankings, they?ll be forced to watch the tournament from home.last_img