Wisconsin working on manufacturing goals


first_imgDefenseman Brendan Smith and the UW men\’s hockey team have to find a way to get the \’garbage\’ goals they need.[/media-credit]On Nov. 7 the Wisconsin men’s hockey team outshot Minnesota 47-28. Two weeks later, UW owns a 39-25 shots on goal advantage over St. Cloud State. This weekend at Michigan, the Badgers outshot the Wolverines 41-35.All three of those games were losses.Wisconsin lost 5-2, 4-1 and 3-2 in those three matchups. But that’s been the trend for the Badgers this season: play evenly with — or in some cases, outplay — the opponent and end up with the “L.”UW is 8-0 when scoring at least four goals this season; the team is 0-5-1 when scoring less than four. When they win, the Badgers outscore their opponents by an average of 3.9 goals. When they lose, it’s not by much; of the team’s five losses, three were by one goal.Don’t call head coach Mike Eaves’ team a “boom or bust” squad though.“As a matter of fact, we’ve played pretty well. The challenge has been for us to finish, to score goals,” Eaves said. “If we were to take that whole spectrum of boom or bust, I don’t think that’s an honest perspective of how we’ve played.”Despite the fact UW is eighth in the nation in scoring offense with 3.71 goals per game, Wisconsin can’t seem to score — despite averaging 40.2 shots on goal — in losses. By comparison, UW gets 39.4 SOG in its wins. The Badgers average 5.25 goals in wins and 1.7 goals in losses.So what’s the difference? Eaves simply attributed the discrepancy to the flow of the game.“There’s an offensive rhythm that exists in all athletics, whether you’re a baseball player, whether you’re a hockey player, whether you’re a basketball player,” he said. “You get in that rhythm, and it seems like you can make everything and you get out of that rhythm and it seems like you can’t put the puck in the ocean.”So to make sure those funks don’t affect the team in the standings, Eaves had his players work on “manufacturing goals” in practice. He compared the process to manufacturing runs in baseball — using bunts and sacrifice flies to score.“In hockey, that same analogy can be made for, you know what, you’ve got to get to the net, you’ve got to get to the dirty areas; you’ve got to get tips and rebounds and find a way to score those kind of goals,” Eaves said.“You’ll have your games where we don’t have our bounces, the puck just doesn’t go in the net, the goalie’s hot or whatnot,” defenseman Brendan Smith added. “I guess the one thing we’ve been talking about is when this happens, and we can’t produce goals for some reason … we have to manufacture our goals by putting somebody in front of the net and making tips and going to the hard areas, where instead of making a pretty goal, we get all these garbage goals.”Those are exactly the kind of goals UW hasn’t seemed to be able to get consistently, despite its philosophy of firing pucks on net and getting rebounds.Sometimes it’s been bad luck, other times it’s been a hot opposing goaltender. Sometimes it’s been both, like when St. Cloud’s Mike Lee just barely got the toe of his skate over in time to deflect what UW forward Jordy Murray thought was an empty net.Wisconsin goaltender Scott Gudmandson gets a head-on view of the Wisconsin offense and said he sees a pattern in the Badgers’ wins and losses.“I look at the difference between some of the games where we scored seven goals, and some of the games where we only scored two and lost by a goal — I think the biggest difference was we were shooting a lot more from the outside in those [losses],” he said. “We’ll still be generating a lot of shots, but we’re making it a little bit easier on the goalies.“When we’re scoring six, seven goals a game, we’re going to the net hard, we’re getting bodies in front of the net and generating a lot of scoring chances.”So in practice Tuesday, Eaves had two defensemen and two forwards in the slot while another player fired shots on net. If the forwards couldn’t tip the puck in, the other players were set up around the net to poke in any rebounds.The Badgers hope by manufacturing their own goals, they can turn some of those 2-3 losses into 3-2 wins. UW’s smallest margin of victory this season was two goals, and Smith thinks getting some dirty goals to win those close games could do a lot for the team’s confidence.“I think games where you can pull out a close game and win is huge — it shows that we had that character to push it that much further and win,” he said. “It’s easy to win a game 7-1 where everything’s going your way; it’s hard to win a game where it’s 2-1.“When you win a game 2-1, you feel good, you feel even a little bit more because you put that much effort to win by 2-1.”last_img