March 27, 2010
By Mike Cook
Special to NCAA.com
ST. PAUL, Minn. – John Mitchell scored five goals in his previous 38 games this season.
He scored two more when it mattered most, including Saturday night, when Wisconsin beat St. Cloud State, 5-3, in the Division I Hockey West Region final to advance to the Frozen Four in Detroit next weekend.
The senior, who had one goal in his previous 24 games – Jan. 29 at Minnesota Duluth, said he wasn’t feeling the pressure to put the puck in the net. “Right now it’s about team and winning the regional and getting to the Frozen Four. I’ve just been trying to do my part, pick up my play when some of the other guys aren’t scoring and backing some of those players up.”
Ryan McDonagh, one of three Wisconsin captains, said Mitchell personifies what the 2009-10 Badger team is all about. It’s not one or two superstars; it is about 20 guys working together.
“Mitchy has done a lot of good things for us all year long, killing penalties, playing physical and always being a supporter of the other guys on the ice and on the bench, talking guys up,” McDonagh said. “Just because he hasn’t scored doesn’t mean he’s not part of this team and hasn’t done something for us.”
He hasn’t had to.
Wisconsin is evenly balanced offensively. Eight Badgers have 20 or more points; seven have 10 or more goals.
“When you get down to this time of year, you’re looking for offense from anybody,” coach Mike Eaves said. “John was playing well until maybe two or three weeks ago and picked it back up and was very effective for us this weekend. That’s the kind of thing you need to happen if you’re going to win these type of games. We had people step up at the right time.”
Eaves also singled out Aaron Bendickson as another player that hasn’t had the blazing stats, but was rewarded for his hard work.
Bendickson, a third-line center, scored the empty-netter to clinch the win Saturday. The senior has nine goals and nine assists this year, after having going 8-10-18 in his first three seasons in Madison.
“You look at a guy like Aaron Bendickson and see where he has gone as a young man in his four years here,” Eaves said. “He has an open net and he bounces it off the outside of the post. Two years ago he might not have responded like he did. But he got back out there again and he was a man possessed. He made it up for it; he was ready for his next shift and as a result got a big goal for us.”
Blake Geoffrion, who has six goals in six postseason games and has garnered many of the headlines with his 27-goal campaign, said the team effort has been strong since the first day of practice, when guys like he, Mitchell, Bendickson, Andy Bohmbach and Ben Street arrived in Madison.
“It’s been four years for us, and every summer we’ve been there working out,” he said. “All the hours that we put in, and then throughout the season, I’m so proud of every one of these guys.”
NOT LEE’S NIGHT: It had been a pretty good 2010 for St. Cloud State’s Mike Lee, but he won’t want to remember his final game of the campaign.
One night after stopping 42 shots in a double-overtime win over Northern Michigan, the freshman, who was the goaltender on Team USA’s win at the 2010 World Junior Championships, allowed three goals on eight shots before being pulled 15:21 into the game and replaced by Dan Dunn.
Lee, who stopped 37 shots to blank Wisconsin last weekend, and Dunn, a junior, had alternated most of the season, but Lee had started six straight games.
Coach Bob Motzko said that was nothing against Dunn, rather it was Lee stepping forward in practice and performing in big games. “Mike’s been so strong in the past, he shut Wisconsin out last week and we had to go back to him.”
Like the rest of his team, Motzko said fatigue may have played a factor in Lee’s slow start.
“We made the change for a fresh body. Dan held the fort in for us.”