En route to its eight-game unbeaten streak, the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team has done a lot of things well. Near the top of the list is the work of its defensive corps, especially freshmen Kevin Schulze and Eddie Wittchow.
During the third-longest unbeaten run of the Mike Eaves coaching era, which began in 2002, all seven blue-liners have a positive plus/minus ratio. Leading the way is Wittchow at +7 followed by senior John Ramage at +6 and Schulze at +5.
Eaves said earlier this week that the two newcomers are becoming more comfortable with the systems and have done a good job of making the simple plays. Schulze is paired with Ramage even strength as well as the No. 2 power play. Wittchow has solidified is place in the lineup working with junior Joe Faust.
UW will try and extend its unbeaten ways and extract some payback Friday and Saturday during a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series with Minnesota State-Mankato at the Verizon Wireless Center.
Mankato swept the series in Madison in November, recording a pair of 4-2 wins. Since then the teams are a combined 14-1-3. UW has gone 5-0-3 while the Mavericks are 9-1.
The Badgers return to full strength on defense with the return of sophomore Jake McCabe from his gold-medal-winning stint with Team USA in the World Junior Championships. He missed last week's series sweep at Alaska-Anchorage.
McCabe will have a different look, though. His No. 19 jersey was left back in Madison, so he'll be wearing No. 2 for the opener.
The UW lineup:
F Joseph LaBate-Derek Lee-Michael Mersch
Note: Mersch leads the team with 61 shots.
F Nic Kerdiles-Mark Zengerle-Tyler Barnes
Note: Zengerle shows 2-3-5 in four road games this season.
F Ryan Little-Jefferson Dahl-Sean Little
Note: One of R. Little's two goals this season came vs. Mankato.
F Brad Navin-Brendan Woods-Keegan Meuer
Note: Meuer goal-less in his last 13 games.
Note: Schulze the only regular without a penalty.
Note: Faust has gone 50 games without a goal.
D McCabe-Frankie Simonelli
Note: McCabe leads UW defensemen with 2-7-9 in 16 games.
G Landon Peterson
Note: His last loss was Nov. 23 vs. Mankato.
The Mankato lineup:
F Dylan Margonari-Matt Leitner-Zach Lehrke
F Brett Knowles-Jean-Paul Lafontaine-Eriah Hayes
F Chase Grant-Teddy Blueger-Johnny McInnis
F Bryce Gervais-Eli Zuck-Max Gaede
D Tyler Elbrecht-Evan Mosey
D Zach Palmquist-Nick Buchanan
D Brett Stern-Jon Jutzi
G Stephon Williams