Last year, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team overused the metaphor of “reaching the top of the mountain” all the way to a national championship. Now, they are set to defend that mountaintop view.The Badgers will begin the 2006-07 season exactly where they left off, tied with Boston College as the nation’s top ranked team. Last season, Wisconsin took the national hockey scene by storm with a 30-10-3 record before dominating the postseason en route to their sixth national championship in program history. UW will begin the season with a huge target on their back as week in and week out teams will look to dethrone the champs. According to Badgers head coach Mike Eaves it is a situation the team is comfortable with.”I think being at the University of Wisconsin, what we consider one of the elite hockey schools, there is always pressure, when you play in front of 15,000 people there is always pressure, when teams come in here they always bring their A game and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Eaves said. “The fact that we won the National Championship I think that target might be highlighted a little more but nevertheless it something we deal with everyday.” Last year, the Badgers had one of the most prolific offensive attacks in the nation averaging more than three goals a game. The Badgers bring back a strong core of scorers from last season with Jack Skille, Ross Carlson and Andrew Joudrey all returning to the team — but replacing three of the team’s four leading scorers from a year ago will be no easy task. Captain Adam Burish and assistant Tom Gilbert graduated, and Robbie Earl and Joe Pavelski left school early for the National Hockey League. “Last year the biggest riddle we had was wondering about Brian Elliot,” Eaves said. “The biggest riddle we have upfront is who can we put together to create some chemistry to score some goals for us and provide the offense we got last year.”While replacing the offensive firepower is the one query surrounding the defending champs, Eaves can sleep easy knowing he has a rock of stability between the pipes. Hobby Baker Award finalist Brian Elliot was the best goaltender in the nation last season, and he will undoubtedly be asked to carry a similar load in his senior campaign. “When you’re building or analyzing a hockey team the first place you look is at the goaltender and we know what we have with Brian Elliot,” Eaves said “Whenever you’re going to win a championship you’re going to need great play by your goaltender … I don’t see any reason why Brian can’t play at that same high level he did last year just because of the young man he is and the skills he brings mentally and physically.” Elliot’s teammates are equally confident in his abilities.”I know he’s (Elliot) going to have a great year again, seeing Brian in practice I can’t even score on him,” sophomore forward Jack Skille said. “It’s just like shooting on a brick wall right now.” Defensively, the Badgers will be returning all of their impact players minus last year’s team captain Tom Gilbert, and with Elliot in net, opponents should have a tough time lighting the lamp. Last season the stingy Wisconsin defense gave up a miniscule 1.8 goals per game while also making significant contributions in the offensive zone. “[Tom] Gilbert was a great player and he had an offensive edge to him. I think myself and the rest of the defensemen can definitely bring a little more offensive power to our games,” UW senior defenseman Jeff Likens said. “He definitely leaves big shoes to fill but we have six defensemen who have all played and I think we can do a good job of maintaining the kind of defense we had last year.” When the Badgers take the ice for the first time this season they will face off against Northern Michigan Friday and embark on a journey that will hopefully end in St. Louis for the 2007 Frozen Four. Eaves, however, knows that getting back there will be no easy task. “We have a saying that the mindset of pursuit has to be more active and aggressive when you’re defending something,” Eaves said.
SAN FRANCISCO – Southwest Airlines has 10 flights every morning leaving Oklahoma City for California. The Dodgers might need all of them.Right-hander Brock Stewart was the newest new arrival in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Sunday morning. He was added to the roster after outfielder Yasiel Puig was placed on the disabled list with a sore left hip and a contusion on his left ankle, both suffered during Saturday’s doubleheader.And Stewart could find himself starting a game as early as Monday. On the DL with a cracked nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand, left-hander Rich Hill was scheduled to come off the DL and start the opener of the four-game series against the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks. He won’t make that start – or possibly more – after developing an infection in the finger.The Dodgers already added outfielder Alex Verdugo to the roster Saturday after Matt Kemp injured his left quad Friday night, Kike’ Hernandez came down sick Saturday morning and Puig ran into an outfield wall in the first inning of the doubleheader. Kemp and Hernandez were both back in the starting lineup Sunday. “It’s manageable,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the roster challenges. “There’s some moving pieces but we’ll manage it.”In the short term, Roberts said Verdugo could get “quite a bit” of playing time while Puig is on the DL. Puig injured his hip when he ran into the right field wall while making a catch in foul territory then fouled a ball off his ankle. But Roberts said he anticipates Puig being ready to return in 10 days.“With Yasiel it’s a combo of the ball off the ankle and the hip pointer he took in right field yesterday going into that wall,” Roberts said. “Right now, I expect him to be back playing with us on that 10th day.”Hill’s situation is more unpredictable. He has started taking antibiotics for the infection and “once you get the antibiotics in play it’s a 72-hour thing,” Roberts said.But Hill’s throwing has been limited since the infection cropped up. He threw a simulated game last week but has not made a start since April 14. It’s possible the Dodgers could decide he needs to make at least one start on a minor-league injury-rehabilitation assignment before activating him from the DL. “It’s not a lasting thing but you have to appreciate that he’s still got to be able to throw the baseball to make a major-league start,” Roberts said. “So I can’t really say when he’s going to make his next start.“I know there’s no one more frustrated than Rich.”If Hill is unavailable, right-hander Walker Buehler could be recalled when Hill’s spot in the rotation comes around again next weekend during the Dodgers’ series in Mexico against the San Diego Padres. Officially added to the roster as the 26th man allowed for doubleheaders, Buehler was optioned to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga after his start – not Triple-A Oklahoma City. It is highly unlikely that he would actually pitch for the Quakes so the procedural move seems to put him in a holding pattern this week for a possible start against the Padres.“There’s a potential,” Roberts said. “If Rich isn’t ready then we have Walker still around.”Alexander to Triple-AWhen the Dodgers acquired left-hander Scott Alexander from the Kansas City Royals this winter, they expected him to be a key piece in their 2018 bullpen. But Alexander was not great and was demoted to Triple-A Saturday to clear a spot for Verdugo. In 11 appearances before his demotion, Alexander allowed 21 baserunners in 11 1/3 innings – nine on walks, 12 on hits.“He’s still obviously a part of what we’re trying to do,” Roberts said. “But where he’s at right now and the start he’s gotten off to, I think there’s some pressing and trying to be too perfect. That’s hard. To me, the fastball command is nowhere near where it needs to be. So he goes to OKC to clean some things up and get back up here.”Playoff promiseGoing into their four-game series with the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers will be at least six games behind the first-place team and under .500 for the first month of the season. But Roberts boldly predicted changes ahead.“When it’s all said and done, the Dodgers will be at the top of the division,” Roberts said Sunday. “I believe that. We believe that.”While winning the NL West the past five seasons, the Dodgers have been at or under .500 at the end of April twice (2013 and 2016). Their lowest winning percentage over the past five seasons has come in April – .523. From May 1 until the end of the regular seasons the past five years, the Dodgers have played at a .593 pace.Up nextDodgers RHP Ross Stripling (0-0, 0.63 ERA) at Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke (2-2, 4.80 ERA), Monday, 6:40 p.m., SportsNet LA (where available) Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error