Peter Tischke is the first to concede his offensive skills are limited.
But there he is, among the 10 players on the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team’s initial power-play units for the season.
The Badgers have at least two reasons to have Tischke, a senior defenseman and captain on the second unit, positioned at the top of the zone while forwards Sean Dhooghe, Max Zimmer, Matthew Freytag and Tarek Baker go to work closer to the net.
From one angle, associate head coach Mark Strobel said, Tischke can keep things simple on the power play because that’s his game in general.
Because the second unit usually gets the final part of the power play, the coaches also like the idea of having Tischke on the ice for defense when the play returns to even strength.
Tischke, who didn’t play on the man advantage over his first three collegiate seasons and has just five goals in 99 games, is trying to take a page from fellow defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk, who runs the top power-play group.
“Obviously, I’m not that high of skilled guy, but when I have a shot, I’m going to shoot,” Tischke said. “And when I’m able to make a clean pass, I’m going to make a clean pass. So just keeping things simple and doing the best we can to get gritty goals in front of the net.”
UW’s power-play success fell off dramatically in the second half of last season to finish in the middle of the pack nationally at 18.8 percent. At the midseason break, the Badgers had converted on nearly 24 percent of their chances; they were just 8-for-64 (12.5 percent) in the final 16 games.
Strobel, who organizes the Badgers’ power plays, said players got “a little too cute” instead of just getting the puck on net.
The first unit at the start of this season has Kalynuk with forwards Linus Weissbach, Seamus Malone and Will Johnson and defenseman K’Andre Miller.
Miller is the only freshman on the power play, although forward Jack Gorniak got some practice in the role last week because of injuries.
“I like K’Andre a lot because he’ll shoot. He’s a shooter,” Strobel said of the converted forward. “That element is going to be a positive for us, instead of catching it, dusting it and looking to take time with the puck. To me, the power play has to be in attack mode all the time.”
Both power-play groups scored in Sunday’s 8-2 exhibition victory over Victoria, with Kalynuk getting a shot through from the top and Zimmer roofing a close attempt.
The Badgers got only three attempts with the man advantage, for a total of 4:26. Coach Tony Granato said he would have liked to have seen more opportunities, knowing that games early in a season that features a new rules emphasis are likely to have more special teams components.
Referees have been instructed to crack down on slashing and late hits, and a new standard for on-the-fly line changes could provide an adjustment period with more penalties.
“I thought both units on the power play executed the way we wanted them to,” Granato said of Sunday’s game. “They got a little bit of practice time in the game, but we’ll focus on it again real heavy this week.”
Already with one player from the Eau Claire area on the team and two more on the list of committed recruits, the Badgers appear to be trying to add another to the pipeline.
Forward Zach Urdahl, a junior at Eau Claire North, made a recruiting visit to the Badgers over the weekend. He had 17 goals and 41 points in 27 high school games last season and has six points in 12 games this season for Team Wisconsin in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League.
UW defenseman Ty Emberson is from Eau Claire. So is Urdahl’s high school and Team Wisconsin teammate Sam Stange, who made a nonbinding oral commitment to the Badgers last month. Recruit Daniel Laatsch is from the neighboring city of Altoona.
Granato said Jack Berry will start in goal in Friday’s regular-season opener against No. 12 Boston College. Freshman Daniel Lebedeff will get the call on Saturday in what might be the pattern the Badgers settle into at the start of the season. … Gorniak, who sat out Sunday’s game because of what Granato said was a paperwork issue, has been cleared to play.