A three-sport athlete as a senior in high school, Wisconsin’s Chase Drake was an all-conference quarterback, defenseman and pitcher at Mosinee High School. Being a well-rounded athlete helped shape Drake’s game at the next level and propelled him into a leadership role as captain of the Badgers.
With a population around 4,000 in the heart of Wisconsin, multi-sport athletes are commonplace in the small town of Mosinee due to the size of the student body. With only 700 students and a graduating class of about 130 when Drake was a senior in 2008, his schedule was packed with football practices and bullpen work, not to mention he was a defenseman for Team Wisconsin. Drake said if his schedule permitted, he wouldn’t have stopped there.
“I think growing up in a small town, you’re kinda forced to play three sports,” he said. “I would for sure go back and maybe try and play another sport if I could. Maybe get in basketball with some time off, or something like that. It just keeps your mind off the other sports you’re not playing. It’s not like you’re not getting better. You’re developing other skills that you’re not gonna be able to on the ice, per se. It kept me busy and it didn’t wear me out, so I always had something to play… it kept me fresh.”
Throwing for 20 touchdowns on a football team that went 10-2 and a starting pitcher that went 7-0 with 70 strikeouts, Drake did a little bit of everything for the Mosinee Indians.
Now a redshirt senior defenseman at UW, Drake said experiences from other sports helped mold him into a well-rounded athlete and there’s a strong correlation between his position on the ice and his former roles on the football field and the baseball diamond.
“Coach refers to playing defense a lot like being the quarterback out there,” Drake said. “You have the ability to see the whole play develop much like the quarterback position … and then from the pitching standpoint, you’ve got to be mentally tough when things aren’t going your way, you’ve gotta be able to have a backup plan. It’s the same with hockey.”
Much like a quarterback and a pitcher, a strong defenseman can dictate the flow of the hockey game with varied puck movement in all three zones of the rink. As the most-seasoned blue liner on the Badgers’ roster, Drake anchors a young defensive corps and an inexperienced squad with 13 freshmen on the roster.
Being able to call upon several leadership roles in the past, Drake has been able to help in the development of the younger players on the team.
“I think it helped form my leadership role at an early age,” he said. “You’re a little bit more immature at that age, so its definitely a little bit more of a learning process at that age to be able to control your emotions and to be able to help others. I think that’s helped me with a lot of these young guys is you gotta know when to get on them and when to be their friend and help them out.”
Heading into the last week of his final season at UW, Drake will look to lead the Badgers on a run through the B1G conference tournament. As a junior, he played an integral role in the team’s run to the championship game in the conference’s inaugural season. But in 2015, he will have his work cut out for him, as the Badgers come in as the last-place team. They will rely on the leadership and experience of the 25-year-old as the Badgers have their sights set on defending their title as conference champion.
No. 19 MICHIGAN (11-7-0, 19-13-0)
OVERVIEW: Swept for just the third time this season in a weekend series, two losses to Penn State may have cost the Wolverines a shot at the regular-season conference championship. Now, first-place comes down to a No. 1 versus No. 2 match-up in a home-and-home series with rival Michigan State. The Wolverines have won 2-of-3 previous meetings this season, but all of those were at neutral sites. Going into East Lansing and coming out with a win will not be easy as they are 1-4-1 in their last six games at Munn Ice Arena. Junior goalie Steve Racine gave up 10 goals on 74 shots in two games against PSU last weekend. In a must-win situation, coach Red Berenson could pull a switch in net and go with sophomore Zach Nagelvoort, who has a 2.65 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 20 games with a 10-8-0 record.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Dylan Larkin’s line was limited to just one goal in two games against the Nittany Lions last weekend. With Zach Hyman (48) and Larkin (41) first and second in the conference in points, UM’s top line has been a non-factor as of late. For the Wolverines to have success, Larkin must finish the season strong. He had a goal and an assist in two games against the Spartans, with the goal coming on the man advantage. Larkin leads the Wolverines in power-play goals (6) and power-play points (13) on a unit that has produced in four of the last five games. The Spartans boast an 86.5 percent efficiency rating on the PK, so Larkin will have his hands full in terms of special teams.
THIS WEEKEND: at Michigan State, Mar. 13, vs. Michigan State, Mar. 14.
MICHIGAN STATE (10-6-2, 16-14-2)
OVERVIEW: Everything went the Spartans’ way last weekend as a sweep of Wisconsin propelled MSU to leap-frog Minnesota and UM to claim the conference’s top spot. Win the series, win the conference. The Spartans now control their own destiny in a home-and-home series with the Wolverines. MSU has the lowest goals against average in the B1G at 2.19 per game and defensively, is playing some of its best of the season, pitching back-to-back shutouts against the Badgers. The saying, ‘defense wins championships’ will be put to the test as UM’s top offense squares off against MSU’s top defense. The forward line of Brent Darnell, Villiam Haag and Thomas Ebbing neutralized UM’s top line in MSU’s 2-1 win on Jan. 30, and could try to exploit that match-up again this weekend.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Junior goalie Jake Hildebrand has proven himself as the best in the B1G with a conference-leading .930 save percentage, earning 16 wins and six shutouts in 32 starts this season. In his last eight starts, Hildebrand is 6-2-0 with a 1.26 goals against average and .959 save percentage with four shutouts in that span. He has given his team a chance to win on a consistent basis, particularly against the high-powered Wolverines offense and should do so again this weekend. If the Spartans can reach the three-goal mark offensively, it should be enough of a cushion for Hildebrand to eliminate the UM offense and potentially win the conference championship in the final week of the regular season.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. No. 19 Michigan, Mar. 13, at No. 19 Michigan, Mar. 14.
No. 15 MINNESOTA (10-5-3, 19-12-3)
OVERVIEW: The Gophers still have an outside shot at first-place in the last week of the regular season, but will need some help. If Minnesota sweeps PSU, and MSU and UM split, the Gophers would win the regular-season championship for a second straight season. However, that won’t be an easy task as the Nittany Lions carry plenty of momentum into this match-up after a weekend sweep of the Wolverines. Minnesota split with PSU less than a month ago, but that was in Happy Valley. With the Nittany Lions visiting Mariucci Arena, the series should favor the Gophers as they are 12-3-1 at home and have won six of the last seven. Minnesota has averaged 3.92 goals per game offensively since Jan. 30, and will need the offense to carry its success through the weekend and into the B1G tournament.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore Justin Kloos snapped a three-game pointless streak with a goal and two assists in two games against the Buckeyes last weekend. The drought was the longest of his career, so getting Kloos back on the score sheet was important as the Gophers will rely on the forward in the final week of the season. In four career games against the Nittany Lions, Kloos has two goals and four points including the game-winning goal in Minnesota’s 2-1 win over PSU on Feb. 20. That strike came on the power play, and going against a Nittany Lions PK that has allowed nine goals in the last seven games, Kloos and company will have a chance to strike on the man advantage yet again.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. Penn State, Mar. 13-14.
OHIO STATE (7-11-0, 12-18-2)
OVERVIEW: Earning a split with nationally ranked Minnesota last weekend, the Buckeyes continue to play some of their best hockey in the final month of the regular season. The 5-2 win over the Gophers means that the Buckeyes now have wins over every B1G team and will head into the tournament with plenty of momentum. A 5-3-0 record in the last eight games, OSU could rack up a few more victories against a susceptible UW team and will be a very tough out from the five-seed in next week’s conference tournament. While their goals against average of 3.47 would suggest poor defense, the Buckeyes block more shots than any other team in the B1G with 522 on the season and have reached double-digits in blocks in seven straight games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Defenseman Craig Dalrymple scored his first and second goals of the season on consecutive nights against the Gophers, with the second one proving to be the game-winner. With just seven points on the season, Dalrymple’s impact isn’t necessarily felt offensively but he does anchor a defensive corps that is tough to play against. Dalrymple is one of five Buckeyes defensemen with 40-or-more blocked shots this season. Getting in the opponent’s way and clogging up shooting lanes can play a large role in big games as it did in OSU’s 5-3 win over PSU and again, in the 5-3 win over UM where the team blocked 22 and 27 shots respectively.
THIS WEEKEND: at Wisconsin, Mar. 13-14.
PENN STATE (10-7-1, 18-12-4)
OVERVIEW: With 31 points, the best possible finish the Nittany Lions can have is second-place. A weekend sweep of the Gophers and a split series between UM and MSU would propel PSU from a fourth-place quarterfinal game to a second-place bye, so there’s still plenty left to play for in the final week. Having lost five of the last six, the Nittany Lions bounced back with big wins on consecutive nights against the Wolverines, scoring 10 goals from eight different players. The spark of offense wasn’t a rarity as PSU averages 3.41 goals per game and a B1G leading 40.3 shots per game this season, but the Nittany Lions had surpassed the three-goal mark just once in the previous six games. Getting the offense back on track against a quality opponent is a big positive that PSU will take into the Minnesota match-up and the conference tournament.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore David Goodwin has played some of his best hockey in the season’s final weeks. In the last four games, he’s totaled two goals and nine points scoring in back-to-back games for the seventh time this season. Goodwin recorded three assists in a 5-3 loss to OSU, and then picked up four points in PSU’s 4-3 win over UM on Saturday. He willed his team back into the win column last weekend and will continue to lead the charge in the regular-season finale at Mariucci Arena. Goodwin has a team-leading four game-winning goals this season and assisted on three more while maintaining a plus-18 rating.
THIS WEEKEND: at No. 15 Minnesota, Mar. 13-14.
WISCONSIN (2-14-2, 4-24-4)
OVERVIEW: Friday’s loss to MSU marked the fifth time this season that the Badgers had lost four games in a row. This time has been a very different story though, as it doesn’t even appear that the Badgers are on the ice, being completely shutout in four of the last five games. The lack of compete level in the final month of the season is disappointing for a last-place team that actually won the inaugural B1G tournament this time last season. It has been a long fall from grace for the Badgers who have just two conference wins, and while a series match-up against fifth-place OSU appears favorable on the surface, the Buckeyes have won five games since Feb. 13. The offense has come to life as well, averaging 3.6 goals per game over the last eight games, so the Badgers will have their hands full on Senior Night at the Kohl Center.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The Badgers will honor six seniors before Saturday’s game, none more important than their goalie Joel Rumpel. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior ranks fifth all-time in UW history with 53 career wins and his 30.86 saves per game is the seventh-highest in program history. One of the best between the pipes for the Badgers, Rumpel has allowed two goals or less in four of his last seven games and has made 30 saves or more in 16-of-29 games this season. Playing behind a young team, Rumpel has seen a ton of work in his final season but is expected to split duties with fellow senior Landon Peterson, as they will get one game apiece in the final series of the regular season. Rumpel will be the go-to guy in the tournament and with some offensive support, has the capability of upsetting a team or two next week at The Joe.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. Ohio State, Mar. 13-14.
The Big Ten will descend on Joe Louis Arena for the first time from March 19-21 as the conference’s championship tournament will be staged in Detroit with all five games set to air live on the Big Ten Network. All-session ticket packages, which include one ticket to all five games of the tournament, start at $45, and are now on sale at the JLA box office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at OlympiaEntertainment.com.
The top two seeds entering the tournament receive byes through the opening-round games, which will take place March 19 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The semifinals are scheduled for March 20 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., with the championship game set to follow on March 21 at 8 p.m.