It did not take long for the Wisconsin men's hockey team (0-2-2) to show it was not up to its task this past weekend. No. 4 Boston College scored 12 seconds into Friday's game and things never improved for the Badgers after that as the Eagles and No. 6 Boston University rolled over UW by a combined score of 10-1.
An inability to create, or prevent, chances doesn't bode well in hockey—or any sport, for that matter—so Wisconsin's struggles shouldn't come as a surprise. The Badgers managed only 37 total shots on goal in the two games and limped to a minus-34 shot differential, including being out-shot, 44-18, in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Terriers.
Through the first four games of the season, UW's total shot attempts for percentage ranks No. 31 in the country at a meager 47.9 percent (222 shot attempts for versus 241 shot attempts against). That percentage doesn't improve much at even strength (48.9 percent) or on the power play (48.0 percent). For comparisons sake, if this were the NHL, that would put Wisconsin in the company of last year's Edmonton Oilers (48.1 percent). Connor McDavid won't be coming to help turn things around in Madison, though.
SB Nation's Boston College blog, BC Interruption, perhaps best summed up the Badgers' offensive struggles in its post-game analysis:
1. Wisconsin is still a bad hockey team. I hate to start these observations by dumping on anyone, but it's pretty clear that Mike Eaves' team is in trouble again this season, and analysis of BC's performance on Friday night should be tempered by who the opponent was. Wisconsin only managed to test Thatcher Demko with two shots on goal from the slot for the entire game. They looked slow, lethargic, and devoid of ideas, and neither goaltender played particularly inspiring hockey. One night after losing to BC, they got outshot 44-18 by BU in a 4-1 loss. It's hard to believe a six-time national championship program is in such dire straits, but they are.
Despite issues everywhere else, freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik showed he has the potential to be Wisconsin's go-to guy between the pipes moving forward. After relieving senior Adam Miller early on in Friday night's 6-0 drubbing against Boston College, Jurusik did all he could to keep Wisconsin afloat. The rookie netminder faced a barrage of pucks and stopped 59 of the 67 shots he faced, including a 40-of-44 (.909) performance against Boston University.
"I think his teammates looked at [Jurusik] tonight with a whole new appreciation because he stepped up to the plate," head coach Mike Eaves told UWBadgers.com after Saturday's game. "And that's a good sign for us because one of the questions we need to answer is who's going to be our starting goalie."
Eaves said Jurusik's performances solidified his hold on the starting position and he will get the nod this Friday against Ferris State.
Despite taking it on the chin in Boston, Eaves believes his team is showing signs of improvement, overall, and pointed to the penalty kill as one cause for optimism. Wisconsin went 11-for-13 (84.6 percent) against the man advantage and has killed 83.3 percent of chances this season. While four games is a small sample size, the improvement over last season's putrid 74.4 percent mark is encouraging.
"I thought our guys did a really good job," Eaves said of the penalty kill. "You can see that what (assistant coach Luke Strand) is trying to have them do, they are starting to do now. It's a backhanded thing, but the blessing of having all those penalty kills is we get to work on them live in game situations, which is the best teacher."
"We did a lot of good things there."
Up next: Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, at Ferris State (1-2-1)
Wisconsin heads back on the road this weekend for a two-game non-conference set against Ferris State. This is the second straight year the Badgers and Bulldogs have met and last year's series at the Kohl Center was one of the only highlights in UW's otherwise dismal 2014-15 campaign.
UW went unbeaten against Ferris State, skating to a 1-1 tie and scoring a season-high five goals in a 5-3 win. Junior forward Grant Besse had two goals in that series and sophomore defensemen Tim Davison and Jake Linhart had two points apiece.
Like the Badgers, the Bulldogs struggle offensively and have averaged under two goals a game through four contests this season. The strength of their team is a veteran-laden defensive core that ranked among the best in the country a season ago.
"I'm glad we're going on the road again," Eaves said. "It's harder to win on the road and it forces your focus to become greater on the things you have to do. You can play a simpler game."
"We're going to a rink that is really small," he added of Ferris State's Ewigleben Arena. "It will tough to go in there and win. If we can learn to play in that environment, we can play in any environment."
Ferris State is coming off a split with Michigan Tech.
Puck drop for both Friday and Saturday's games against Ferris State is 6 p.m. (CT).