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first_imgJustin Schultz (right) fights for the puck against a Denver defender in mid-February. A candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, Schultz had a goal and an assist in game two of that series.[/media-credit]With its last regular season games coming up this weekend on the road at rival Minnesota, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team is working to keep its momentum and head into the playoffs on a high note.Head coach Mike Eaves is confident in his team’s chances if players remain consistent.“We’ve got to keep banging the drum here and play the way that we are playing, so that we can, in fact, continue to play,” Eaves said at his Monday press conference.Coming off their first road sweep at Bemidji State, the Badgers are riding their second-longest winning streak of the year at three games. Eaves expressed his excitement coming off his team’s twin 4-2 wins.“One thing that was talked about after Saturday was our fourth line’s performance, with that being a contributing factor to our win,” Eaves said. “It was nice to see that line jump in there and make a difference.”Throughout the season, Eaves has remained mindful of his team’s youth and lack of experience. The Badgers’ record of 15-15-2 reflects their dedication to continuing to improve in practice and the growth of Eaves’ young team.Reflecting back on his team’s tumultuous season, Eaves referenced the team’s North Dakota losses late last month and the 5-2 win against Denver Feb. 18 and voiced his pride in his squad’s resiliency.“It started around North Dakota, not finding a way to get over that hump, … then figuring out how to get over the hump [at Denver],” Eaves said. “It was a terrific feeling in the building, and the guys intrinsically knew what it felt like, how we had to play from now on.”The spark from that win fueled the team through its victories last weekend and has permeated into the players’ mindsets.“There is a sense in the locker room, from the inside out, an intrinsic sense of how we need to play,” Eaves said.Facing the Gophers this weekend in Minneapolis, the Badgers hope to continue their winning streak and by doing so prevent the Gophers from seizing the MacNaughton Cup. Minnesota sits atop the WCHA standings with a 23-11-1 conference record, while the Badgers sit at No. 9 in the conference.While this increases the stakes for Minnesota in this game, Eaves says the team is not focused on what the Gophers are playing for.“Quite honestly, I’ve never been a coach that is going to throw that up in the player’s face as motivation,” Eaves said. “For us, that’s a side effect of if we play well. For us, the big picture is continuing to play well. ”Minnesota will also be coming off a four-game winning streak, having swept Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha the past two weekends. The Badgers are training hard as they prepare to face a motivated and highly disciplined team.When it comes to side-benefits of performing well, Eaves is confident in his Hobey Baker Award nominee, junior defenseman Justin Schultz. Schultz is the league’s top scoring defenseman, with 15 goals and 42 points, and a strong contender to bring the award back to Madison.Teammate Mark Zengerle, a sophomore forward with 44 points this season, joins Schultz of Hobey Baker Award contenders.If either Schultz of Zengerle were to win the award, they would be the second Badger to have that honor following Blake Geoffrion, who won the award in 2010 after finishing as the nation’s second leading scorer and the nation’s top power play goal scorer.Eaves weighed in on Schultz’s chances and compared the experience to what he went through with Geoffrion.“Because of how far we went then, it allowed Blake to play in that plane, and he played at a high level. Playing well on a team in the finals was a huge factor in his winning,” Eaves said. “For Justin to bring it back around, Justin’s ability to have a chance to win and be successful will be dependent on how far we go here. And if we do well, he is going to be leading the charge.”The Badgers are facing their final test before the playoffs this weekend, and Eaves and the rest of his coaching staff are confident they’re ready for the fourth-ranked Gophers. “We made noise this past weekend, and we need to continue to make noise as we go along,” Eaves said.last_img