After a summer of bleeding players, the Wisconsin men's hockey team announced the signing of six players to National Letters of Intent for the 2015-16 season on Wednesday.
Forwards Tanner Barnes (Eagan, Minn.), Will Johnson (Santa Barbara, Calif.), Zac Keryluk (Verona, Wis.), and Jarod Zirbel (Green Bay, Wis.), defenseman Patrick Sexton (Ottawa, Ontario), and goaltender Matt Jurusik (La Grange, Ill.) bring the Badgers' roster for next season to 28 players, something head coach Mike Eaves called a "different type of philosophy" born out of UW's disastrous 2014-15 campaign.
"That allows us, during the course of the week, to run a real high-tempo full scrimmage," Eaves said in the team's release on the decision to carry more players on the roster. "That will make it very competitive. The message being sent is that unless you are willing to do the things that we need to do in terms of hard, smart, and play as a team, then we are going to make changes in our lineup."
The Badgers will have to throw anything against the wall and see what sticks this season after taking hit after hit during the summer. Wisconsin suffered a pair of tough early departures in forward Morgan Zulinick and defenseman Jack Dougherty to personal reasons and an NHL contract, respectively. On top of that, highly-touted goalie recruit Luke Opilka -- who was tabbed to replace Joel Rumpel between the pipes -- opted to sign with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers shortly after being selected in the NHL Draft.
In to replace Opilka in this year's class is Jurusik, who played last year with the NAHL's Janesville Jets and led the league with 33 wins (including 29 in a row at one point), a 1.57 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage, and seven shutouts, and was named to the NAHL All-Rookie team. He also helped Team USA to a bronze medal at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup Tournament.
In the announcement, Eaves didn't shy away from why the addition of Jurusik was needed, but did say he feels lucky to have found a goalie of Jurisik's caliber this late in the recruiting process.
"When we talked to people when we needed to find a goaltender this summer, the name most people brought up was Matt Jurusik," Eaves said. "He is going to push for playing time."
Jurusik will compete with redshirt junior Adam Miller and redshirt freshman Gabe Grunwald -- who have a combined two games of college experience -- for time in Wisconsin's crease this fall.
Wednesday's six NLI signees join forwards Matthew Freytag, Luke Kunin, and Seamus Malone, and defensemen Matt Berkovitz and Peter Tischke in Wisconsin's 2015-16 recruiting class.
- Barnes is the younger brother of former Badger forward Tyler (2010-'14), who scored 107 points (45+62) over 152 games in his four-year career.
- Despite an injury-shortened season, Johnson still ranked third among Madison Capitols scorers last season.
- Keryluk is the son of former UW national champion Ken, who skated for the Badgers from 1978-82, scoring 65 points in 152 games.
|Tanner Barnes||Johnstown Tomahawks (NAHL)||60||11||20||31|
|Will Johnson||Madison Capitols (USHL)||30||9||27||36|
|Zac Keryluk||Jersey Hitmen / Rochester Jr. Americans (USPHL)||47||7||10||17|
|Patrick Sexton||Penticon Vees (BCHL)||45||1||11||12|
|Jarod Zirbel||Madison Capitols (USHL)||51||7||6||13|
|Matt Jurusik||Janesville Jets (NAHL)||40||33||1.57||0.939|