Is it just a happy coincidence that the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team is unbeaten with freshmen left winger Nic Kerdiles in the lineup?
UW coach Mike Eaves says no.
"He provides something that we didn't have when he wasn't in the lineup,'' Eaves said. "He's an offensive player.''
With Kerdiles sitting out a 10-game NCAA suspension for violating amateurism rules the Badgers were 1-7-2 overall while averaging 1.80 goals per game, allowing 2.90, generating 25.6 shots on goal and yielding 30.3. On special teams, they were 4-for-32 on the power play (12.5 percent) and 31-for-40 killing penalties (77.5 percent).
In the six games with Kerdiles UW is 3-0-3 while averaging 2.83 goals per game, allowing 1.17, generating 32.17 shots on goal and yielding 25.67. While the power play remains stagnate at 2-for-15 (13.3 percent) -- Kerdiles curiously spent all six games with the No. 2 man-advantage unit -- the penalty kill is 17-for-19 (89.47 percent).
Those upgraded statistics generally reflect a trickle-down effect in the lineup, which has better balance and less stress on certain players in the offensive end. Without Kerdiles some UW players may have tried to do too much while playing elevated roles for which they weren't suited.
Another step in the process comes Friday and Saturday when the Badgers open the unofficial second half of the regular season with a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at Alaska-Anchorage.
"We were banking on him to be able to do the things that he brings to the table at the beginning of the year,'' Eaves said of Kerdiles, who skates on a line with junior center Mark Zengerle and junior right winger Tyler Barnes. "That was a big hole to fill when we didn't have him.
"Guys were going up (in the lineup) and they don't have his natural abilities to be able to do those kinds of things, so, yes, we had people out of position.''