Sometime between their first official practice Saturday morning and their first competitive test of the season Saturday night, members of the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team got their first jolt of adversity.
Before facing the under-18 squad from the U.S. National Team Developmental Program in an exhibition game at the Kohl Center, it was announced highly regarded freshman left winger Nic Kerdiles wouldn’t play due to unspecified eligibility issues with the NCAA.
A media release said school officials “are working with the NCAA toward a resolution of the situation” with Kerdiles, a second-round NHL draft pick of Anaheim and a strong student who was projected to be a top-line forward for the Badgers.
After his club registered a 5-0 victory before an announced crowd of 7,501, UW coach Mike Eaves would say only the NCAA has been looking into a specific matter “for a while” and he didn’t know when Kerdiles’ status for the season would be known.
“It’s not in my hands right now,” he said.
It was an otherwise uplifting night for newcomers to the Badgers. Defenseman Kevin Schulze and left winger Morgan Zulinick, both freshmen, accounted for goals.
Meanwhile, junior defenseman Chase Drake, a reserve who had played in only two games coming into the season, scored on the power play and added a pair of assists.
Junior center Mark Zengerle, who led the Badgers in scoring last season, and sophomore center Brendan Woods, from whom much is expected this season, also came through with goals.
“We’ve got our feet in the water,” Eaves said. “Now we work on ways to win battles.”
Sophomore goaltenders Joel Rumpel (9 saves) and Landon Peterson (14) split time and looked sharp facing a club that had four games under its belt and features some of the top teenage talent in the U.S.
Eighteen of the 22 in uniform for the NTDP are committed to college programs for 2013-14.
“They’re a strong defensive team and you can see that in their physical strength,” NTDP coach Don Granato, a former UW winger and co-captain, said of the Badgers. “It was tough for us to get to the net.”
Zengerle, the top returning scorer in the nation from last season, got things started 3 minutes, 11 seconds into the game when he zinged a wrist shot past goaltender Hunter Miska (14 saves) on the power play.
Schulze came through at 16:13 of the first when his shot from the left point caromed off traffic in the slot and beat Miska.
Zulinick kick-started the second when he corralled a feed from junior right winger Michael Mersch and went in alone to beat Miska with a nifty backhander.
Woods came through at 14:07 of the second when he snapped off a wrist shot from the right hash after a nice set-up pass from sophomore right winger Brad Navin.
Drake made it 5-0 on the man-advantage when he buzzed a one-timer from the right circle past Miska at 4:01 of the third.
“His stock rises and it forces everybody to say, ‘Geez, I better be playing well,’ ” Eaves said of Drake, who played extensively and saw time on the power play because sophomore Jake McCabe didn’t play due to an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Drake said he maximized his opportunity offensively, but said he had to fine-tune some of the defensive mistakes he made before the Badgers travel to UW-Green Bay on Friday to face Northern Michigan in a non-conference series.
“It’s kind of what I’m dwelling on,” he said. “I’m excited, but a lot of work (has) to be done.”