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Freshman netminder ready for action

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoIn backing up former Badger goaltender Brian Elliott, current UW goalie Shane Connelly had to wait patiently before he got his chance to shine. For freshman Scott Gudmandson, that wait has been much shorter. In just his fourth game with Wisconsin and the team’s fourth of the season, Gudmandson got the start in goal against Robert Morris in the series’ finale. The Alberta native did not disappoint, saving 25 shots and allowing just two goals en route to earning his first collegiate win. “I think he was pretty solid overall,” senior defenseman Davis Drewiske said. “It was his first game (on) a pretty big stage. … All in all, I think he performed pretty well. I have to be happy with him.” After the game, head coach Mike Eaves compared Gudmandson’s learning curve to the one Connelly had as a freshman behind Elliott. While it may have come as a surprise to start a young goalie so early in the season, Eaves felt the opportunity was right for Gudmandson to get his feet wet. “We were looking for opportunities (to start him), and the opportunities we were going to give him were based on how he progressed and how we felt based on what he had seen so far,” Eaves said. “Now might be a good time, and it was.” For Gudmandson, who posted a 15-8-0 record last season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League, it was the chance he had been waiting for. “It was pretty exciting when I found out that I was going to start,” Gudmandson said. “It’s my first college game, the most people I’ve ever played in front of. It’s pretty cool. The atmosphere and everything in this town is second to none. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.” Having never played in front of more than 1,000 people, the Kohl Center crowd of 13,538 was somewhat intimidating for the freshman netminder, even if it was his home rink. Gudmandson was admittedly nervous, and it showed early on, as he was unable to corral rebounds off his pads and allowed two goals in the first two periods. “I thought he played pretty well,” Connelly said. “You could tell he was nervous going in. … Most goalies [in] their first college game are going to be nervous.” “I think if you’re not a little bit nervous, you’re not ready to go,” Drewiske said. “He understood the magnitude of it.” Connelly didn’t say much to Gudmandson before the game, instead choosing to let the freshman focus and hit the ice on his own. “I kind of just let him go,” Connelly said. “It’s kind of a tough place. You don’t know how other goalies are going to react if you talk to them. Some goalies like to be left alone.” As the team captain, Drewiske chose to offer a few words to the freshman, stepping up before the game to try to calm Gudmandson’s early nerves. “Right before we all went out, we just grabbed him and said, ‘Just have confidence, and we’ll take care of you,’” Drewiske said. “I don’t think he needed to hear much more than that.” The team took care of him in a big way — seven players scored for Wisconsin — as it skated to an 8-2 victory and a sweep of the Robert Morris. “The older guys were great at supporting me in the dressing room, giving me a pat on the back,” Gudmandson said. “I think that helped settle me down there.” After shaking off his early jitters, Gudmandson had perhaps his finest moment in the game in the third period, making a beautiful glove save to his left after the initial shot bounced off his pads. “After the save, it was a great feeling to have the crowd cheering for you,” Gudmandson said. “It makes me feel a lot more like a part of the team.” The save electrified the Kohl Center crowd and elicited praise from the UW student section. “He got a lot of confidence,” Eaves said. “He made that big save in the third period, and he had his first taste of Badger worship from the fans. I think confidence is so much a part of a goaltender’s equipment, so that was nice.” Despite the impressive first start, Eaves said Connelly is the team’s goalie, and Gudmandson’s time in the net will depend on the circumstances. “I think his athleticism has helped his willingness to kind of take what Coach (Bill) Howard has done,” Eaves said. “He’s got enough repetitions that it’s become a part of who he is now, such to the point that Howie felt comfortable saying, ‘Hey, let him go in there and see what he can do.’” Gudmandson knows he might not get many starts as a freshman, but that hasn’t changed his mindset in practice. “I can’t really put an expectation on when I’m going to play,” Gudmandson. “You never know what’s going to happen as a goalie. I’ve just got to prepare every game like I’m gonna play because if [Connelly] goes down with an injury, I’ve got to be there to be ready.” And if his Badger debut was any indication, he’s ready.last_img read more