Hard work helped Gudmandson evolve into elite goalie

first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)In a perfect world, hard work pays off. An athlete puts in the hours and effort and is rewarded with tangible results.Scott Gudmandson’s world is not perfect – but it’s getting close.The senior goaltender has backstopped the Wisconsin men’s hockey team to a 15-8-3 record, starting 19 games and going 11-6-1 in the process. This is notable because last season the Badgers were 13-6-3 at this point and picking up steam. With a veteran team that ended up in the national title game, there was little doubt UW would gain momentum as the second half started with its experienced forwards and elite defensemen.Gudmandson himself finished the season with a 2.34 goals-against average and .913 save percentage, which ranked 13th and 27th in the nation, respectively.Fast forward to 2011 and Gudmandson is one of the big reasons the Badgers began the second half with two sweeps. This team’s group of forwards is not nearly as deep, and while its blueline is continuing a tradition of excellence, the group as a whole may not be as talented as last season’s.So it might be even more impressive that Gudmandson’s 1.79 goals-against average is third in the nation and tops in the WCHA. His .932 save percentage is also tops in the conference and good for sixth in the country.To put it simply, it’s the result of hard work being rewarded.“[Gudmandson] works hard; he’s one of the hardest workers when he gets on the ice,” senior defenseman Craig Johnson said. “When he gets out there, he’s got a ritual he does before games. He’s the first one at the rink; he’s got that mindset that he’s ready to go.”And while Gudmandson’s not the loudest guy on the rink – he tends not to say more than he needs to on any subject – he hopes his effort is rubbing off on his teammates.“I just try to work hard,” he said. “I’m not the most vocal guy on the team, but I think I lead by example by working hard.”That hard work has fueled Gudmandson’s evolution from a player who just a year ago was only a co-starter to someone who Wisconsin turned to as it made a run to the Frozen Four.During his freshman and sophomore years, the Sherwood Park, Alberta, native saw only limited action as he backed up Shane Connelly. Gudmandson went just 2-3-2 in 10 games played, with a pedestrian 3.16 GAA and .881 save percentage.The biggest issue however, was letting goals go. Mentally, being scored on would seem to rattle his confidence.“It’s definitely, goaltending is one of those positions… Being a goalie is 90 percent mental,” fellow senior goaltender Brett Bennett said. “Honestly, just being ready for games… there’s things there’s nothing you can do on sometimes, on goals.”However, that seems to be a thing of the past.“It was that adjustment he had to make between his ears,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “It’s really fun to see; he’s matured into a really fine athlete – not just a goaltender, but an athlete.”Even last season’s weaknesses – playing the puck with confidence and controlling rebounds with authority – have improved in the past year. Eaves thinks it can be chalked up to experience.“I think the maturity level that Goody has shown, the confidence he’s shown in all aspects of his game – the handling of the puck, the rebound control,” he said. “His mental focus right through the game has been a real asset for him and has allowed him to play at the level he’s at.”Coming into this season, it was evident Eaves was going to need to rely on Gudmandson and Bennett. The duo have responded splendidly, as the Badgers are tied for ninth in the PairWise rankings, which mimics the formula the NCAA uses to select the 16-team field for the postseason tournament.Should the Badgers make any kind of postseason run, they have a group of young talent that got big-game experience just a year ago. Maybe more importantly, the guys between the pipes are more seasoned – Bennett likens goaltenders to fine wine: getting better with age.In that case, UW may have a decisive advantage come the WCHA playoffs. Wisconsin is the only team in the conference relying on old goaltending, with Minnesota’s Alex Kangas – who is out for the season – the only other senior netminder that gets any significant amount of playing time.“I think that will come to show later on in the year, once playoffs comes, NCAA tournament, if we’re lucky enough to get there,” Bennett said. “I think more later on, those big tight games, where pressure goes up, I think guys that have been there, guys that are older, have been through all those situations before, that’s more when that will show up.”“Experience is huge,” Gudmandson added. “Getting to go to the Frozen Four last year and getting that experience, you can’t replace that.”So while the Badgers have relied on the rock in between the pipes up to this point, the guys up front are eager to return the favor.“Last year we had a lot of skill on our team, we had a very, very good team. We’re a younger team and we depended on him at the beginning of the year. We put a lot on his shoulders and he knew that coming in,” Johnson said. “But now we’ve got to the second half of the season now; our young team has grown.“So we’ve helped him out, and he’s extremely helped us out.”last_img

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