UW riding confidence into Denver, postseason

first_imgRyan Little is one of the Badgers few upperclassmen, but noted the team’s confidence headed into the playoffs is more important this year than the small amount expereinced leadership they have.[/media-credit]The facial hair has made its traditional – and somewhat disgusting – return, meaning only one thing: It’s playoff time.The Wisconsin men’s hockey team (16-16-2, 11-15-2 WCHA) journeys to Denver to face off with the Pioneers (21-11-4, 16-8-4 WCHA) in a best-of-three series – in what UW hopes to be the start of a lengthy post season.But for the Badgers, the difference between this weekend and the last half of their season is small and insignificant – if even existent at all.Essentially, since the start of the second half, Wisconsin has faced a do-or-die series almost every weekend, first fighting for home ice advantage in the first round, then – after losing that possibility – the simple hope for a higher seed.“It’s been playoff time a long time for us,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “We’re fighting for our lives in terms of RPI and trying to gain ground there so we keep our hopes alive. So nothing really changes.”The Badgers haven’t had the most outstanding season, drawing a .500 overall finish in the regular season. But in its final three series, Wisconsin pulled off a 4-2 record, with three wins on the road – sweeping Bemidji State on the road Feb. 23-24, and scoring a 4-1 victory March 2 at Minnesota.Kicking off their four-game win streak, the Badgers dominated the Pioneers 5-2 in their final home game of the season Feb. 18. With such recent success against Denver, Wisconsin is confident it has the No. 3 seed figured out.“That Denver weekend we put together a pretty solid weekend with a win on Saturday,” junior forward Ryan Little said of finally turning the corner on their season. “The next couple weekends we were more consistent; that’s what we were looking for.“With all the scouting we do, we know their tendencies and stuff so that helps. Just knowing that we match up well and we had success against them earlier is a big thing.”Freshman defenseman Jake McCabe spoke specifically about DU’s power play – which is the best in the WCHA with a 24.1 percent success rate. In its lone series this season against No. 9 Denver, Wisconsin killed all four of the Pioneers’ power play attempts.“It was especially great to see our penalty kill do so great against them,” McCabe said. “They’re first in the league and top five [in power plays]. For us to shut them down like that, we had been struggling on the penalty kill, it was a really good thing for us and provides confidence for us. That’s one of their special teams and how they win so many games, knowing that we can shut that down and adjusting to their game, they might be adjusting to ours – it’s going to be a whole new series … we’re pretty evenly matched up and we think we’ve got a pretty good handle on them.”Wisconsin’s on-ice success doesn’t only apply to this season. While Denver tends to get the best of Wisconsin in the regular season (the Badgers are 10-19-4 against Denver under Eaves), the Badgers hold a stiff 12-1 record over the Pioneers in post-season play.Normally, heading into big game situations, teams rely on their upperclassmen and experience. Well, on a Badger squad that has been pegged as youth-ridden, young, inexperienced and everything in between, that sort of experience simply doesn’t exist.“I think the confidence feeling has to be huge for us because experience doesn’t exist,” Eaves said. “I think that the way that we feel – to play the last four games in the environments that we’ve had … those are good experiences for our people … it’s just more of the same.”“It helps but I think confidence is a bigger thing right now,” Little said. “We’ve established some of that in past few of weekends. Experience obviously helps but it’s not everything.”Riding that confidence and a successful end of the season, for the first time this year, the Badgers can firmly state that they are playing their best hockey of the entire year.“It’s funny, Coach always tells us to tell you guys that’s our goal when we talk to media,” Little said. “Ironically enough, we are.”last_img read more

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Lakers guard Steve Blake out 6 weeks with elbow injury

first_imgEL SEGUNDO – Veteran Lakers point guard Steve Blake has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will miss at least six weeks, the team announced Thursday at practice.Blake, who was averaging 9.8 points and 7.7 assists while starting all 21 games, said he sustained the injury while guarding John Wall during the Lakers’ 116-111 loss at Washington on Nov. 26.“I went for a steal and kind of jammed my arm up into his body,” Blake said. “I’m pretty sure that’s when I tore it.”This means all three of the Lakers’ point guards – including Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar – are out with injuries. A spokesman said it’s unlikely the team will try to sign another player in the interim. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Laker coach Mike D’Antoni said doing so would not be easy.“I think (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) is definitely going to look and if anything makes sense … we’ll get Farmar back, hopefully, in a couple of weeks,” D’Antoni said. “So by the time we got off the road trip, then we’ll adjust again. It’s hard to bring somebody in this quick knowing Farmar is coming back.”The Lakers (10-11) begin a four-game road trip tonight at Oklahoma city.Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant and Xavier Henry will fill in for Blake, who was bummed Thursday.“I’ve had better days; disappointed,” he said. “It’s not something I wanted to go through right now. But crazy things happen and you’ve just gotta try and stay positive.”last_img read more

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