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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published December 11 2009

Sioux hockey: Wisconsin ranks atop WCHA in many categories

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The University of Wisconsin is tied for third in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.

It seems like that’s the only place the Badgers aren’t in first.

They enter this weekend’s series against UND with the league’s top scoring offense and top scoring defense to go along with the No. 1 goal scorer (Blake Geoffrion), assist scorer (Brendan Smith), overall scorer (Smith), defenseman scorer (Smith) and goaltender (Scott Gudmandson) in the WCHA.

The Badgers (10-5-1 overall, 7-4-1 WCHA) have scored at least six goals in three of their last four games, including 14 in last weekend’s sweep of Michigan Tech.

It’s a tall task for the 9-5-2 Sioux, who won’t play another league series until Jan. 8-9.

“They are a very good mechanical hockey team,” UND goalie Brad Eidsness said. “They play their systems very soundly. Judging by what they’ve done the last three or four weekends, they’re going to get a lot of pucks to the net and drive to the net hard. I think they’ve got some guys in their lineup that shoot the puck very well.

“You look at their defense and they have a very, very skilled back end with Brendan Smith leading that, so obviously there’s a pretty good hockey team coming here this weekend and it’s something we’re excited for.”

Gudmandson, who leads the WCHA with a 1.57 goals-against average, is expected to start back-to-back games for the first time this season. He had been splitting time with Brett Bennett, but Bennett did not travel because of an injury he suffered at practice.

That doesn’t mean UND will have a different game plan, though.

“We just have to play our game,” defenseman Derrick LaPoint said. “We have to play with speed, limit turnovers and just try to get as many pucks to the net on their goaltender as we can.

“It’s been up and down ever since Chay (Genoway) went out, but I think we’re finally figuring out ourselves and everyone is figuring out where they’re going to be in the lineup. Guys have stepped up and played larger roles.”

The Sioux also want to head into Christmas break as a top-five team in the league. They currently sit in sixth, but are only three points out of second.

“This is our last chance for almost a month to get points,” Eidsness said.

Brad Schlossman is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.