Special to AnaheimDucks.com
|“I’m working on my defensive game and obviously my offense too, but just playing solid defense and my awareness,” said Gardiner, Anaheim's first round pick (17th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. |
One is from Minnesota and one is from British Columbia. One is a sophomore and one is a freshman. They were born just two days apart (July 4 & 6) in 1990. And they were selected in back-to-back rounds by the Ducks at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, so it should be no surprise that Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz
have become fast friends as teammates with the University of Wisconsin hockey team.
And now, with lockers next to each other in the Badgers locker room, the two defensemen are enjoying life on the biggest stage college hockey has to offer—the Frozen Four.
Their Badgers won the NCAA West Regional in St. Paul by defeating Vermont and St. Cloud State and advanced to the championship game by trouncing Rochester Institute of Technology 8-1 in the semifinals at cavernous Ford Field in Detroit.
|Ducks prospects Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz will compete in the NCAA National Championship game against Boston College tomorrow at Ford Field in Detroit, MI (4 p.m. PDT, ESPN). |
Selected in the first round (17th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Gardiner has earned 6-7=13 points with a team-leading +26 rating in 40 games with Wisconsin this season. During the NCAA tournament, Gardiner has collected 1-1=2 points in three games. He scored a goal and added an assist on the game-winner in Wisconsin’s 5-3 win over Cloud State in NCAA West Regional play on Mar. 26, which advanced the Badgers to the Frozen Four.
Selected in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Schultz has scored 6-16=22 points with a +2 rating and 12 PIM with the Badgers this season. In three NCAA tournament games, Schultz has picked up 2-2=4 points. He earned an assist on the game-winning goal in Wisconsin’s 3-2 win over Vermont in NCAA West Regional play on Mar. 26 and scored 1-1=2 points in the Badgers’ 8-1 victory over Rochester Institute of Technology in the first semifinal of the NCAA championship on Apr. 8.
In addition to Gardiner and Schultz, Ducks prospect Justin Vaive also reached the Frozen Four with Miami (Ohio) University. Vaive scored 5-3=8 points with a +4 rating and 49 PIM in 42 games with the RedHawks, which lost to Boston College in the second NCAA semifinal game on Apr. 8.
Schultz banged a rebound off the back boards to give the Badgers a 4-0 lead after earlier helping his team get on the board just 87 seconds into the contest with an assist.
“I’ve never really experienced anything like this—that’s for sure,” said Schultz. “All the people here and all the media, I love it.
“When we were leaving the hotel for the game yesterday (Thursday), all the fans were there and our band was playing was pretty cool.”
Schultz, a second round pick in 2008 (43rd overall), was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Rookie team after his five-goal, 15-assist season. He quarterbacks the power play for the Badgers with four of his goals coming with the man-advantage.
|“I was a forward when I was younger, so offense is what I like,” said Schultz, a second round selection (43rd overall) for the Ducks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. “I’m really happy with (my season). Playing with a bunch of older guys and d-men has helped.” |
“I was a forward when I was younger, so offense is what I like,” said Schultz. “I’m really happy with (my season). Playing with a bunch of older guys and d-men has helped.”
Gardiner, a first round pick (17th overall) in the 2008 draft, led the Badgers this season in plus/minus at plus-25 and tied for the team lead with two shorthanded goals. He also saved his best offensive contributions for when it counted most with four of his season total six goals and nine of his 13 points racked up during conference games.
Also a former forward who switched to defense as a senior in high school, he was a WCHA All-Rookie Team selection last season.
“I’m working on my defensive game and obviously my offense too, but just playing solid defense and my awareness,” said Gardiner of what he is working on. “Playing with (Montreal draft pick Ryan) McDonagh has helped a lot, so I give a lot of credit to him.
“Early this season, I wasn’t really playing my game and I wasn’t jumping up in the play as much as I was last year. But I spoke to Coach (Mike) Eaves and I’ve been more comfortable lately.”
Schultz is a right handed shot and is listed at 6-1 and 185 pounds. Gardiner shoots left and just one inch taller than his current, and possibly future, teammate.
The two are experiencing the Frozen Four for the first time in their playing careers, but Wisconsin is no stranger to the final four of college hockey. The Badgers have won six national championships in 11 appearances--the last coming in 2006.