Jake Gardiner and the 19-10-3 Badgers are looking to right the ship after being swept last weekend. UW has three more series left.[/media-credit]After winning 12 out of 13 games from early December through January, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team was feeling quite comfortable at No. 7 in the Pairwise rankings.But after Nebraska-Omaha swept the Badgers last weekend, that comfort has been replaced with some anxiety.Now UW is No.15 in the rankings – precisely on the fringe of the NCAA tournament.“I was surprised by that. It’s kind of a messed up system, if you really want to know,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said of the rankings. “You drop from seven to 15. Somebody loses we go up, or we lose a game and we go up. It’s convoluted, and when somebody told me we dropped [from 7 to 15], I said, ‘What!’”The numbers don’t lie, and right now the Badgers must win to stay on track for a NCAA appearance.There may be three weeks left in the regular season, but according to senior captain Sean Dolan, the Badgers have already adopted the playoff mindset.“100 percent,” Dolan said. “That’s our mentality going forward. We know after last weekend how much you can drop [in the rankings] after one bad series.“It’s playoff hockey, and right now we are sitting on the bubble.”The Badgers (19-10-3, 11-9-2) will test their playoff mentality against border-rival Minnesota (12-12-4, 9-10-3) this weekend. If the drop in the rankings wasn’t enough motivation – and if the disappointment of a sweep didn’t light a fire – the Badgers have a heated WCHA rivalry to look forward to.“It’s a huge weekend every time you play Minnesota,” Dolan said. “And we know they are thinking the same thing over there.”The Gophers come into Madison after earning a split against second-place Denver in Minneapolis. Minnesota found its scoring touch in game two, scoring seven goals in a lopsided victory. Goaltender Kent Patterson, who replaced Alex Kangas after the senior was ruled out for the season with hip surgery, continues to provide stability in net for the Gophers, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.57 goals against average.“We all know what we’re in for,” freshman forward Mark Zengerle said. “We know it’s going to be a battle.”The Badgers certainly feel battle-tested after a humbling series in Omaha. UW lost 4-1 in the opener and was handed a 4-3 defeat the next night, despite roaring back with a couple of late goals.Eaves mentioned Monday the series against the Mavericks gave his freshmen their first taste of playoff hockey at the collegiate level and that struggle will serve as a valuable lesson.The two losses hurt the Badgers in the rankings, but Eaves knows eye-opening experience is all part of a season-long journey.“I just don’t think people understand the process a team has to go through in order to become championship-caliber,” Eaves explained. “It doesn’t happen overnight and that’s why I don’t think we were disappointed. We played in front of 15,000 people, on the road, against a good, hard, physical team and that’s a process.“We didn’t execute the way we needed to but we were right there.”Like his coach, junior assistant captain Jake Gardiner isn’t too concerned with the two-game skid and is confident his freshman teammates will raise their level of play as the games grow more meaningful.“I didn’t think we played bad last weekend. We just couldn’t get some breaks. They had a couple lucky bounces on some goals and that hurt us,” Gardiner said. “And I think our freshmen have come a long way. They’ll show that down the stretch.”The postseason has started a little early for the Badgers, and this weekend presents two critical games for UW against a hated rival. The season is winding down, and the pressure is on.So is there any sense of panic after a sweep and a dramatic drop in the rankings?“Gosh no,” Eaves said. “This is fun. This building is going to be sold out. This is why you train all summer. You run all those damn hills because you give yourself a chance to be successful out here in February and March.”
Former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian lost in his $30 million wrongful termination suit against the University. Before the fall · Sarkisian heads a USC football practice before he was released after multiple incidents related to his alcohol problems | Daily Trojan file photoEarlier this week, an arbitration hearing held in Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled against Sarkisian, the current Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator. He has since said he will no longer pursue the matter.“I am disappointed in the decision, but we will respect it and move on,” said Sarkisian in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sarkisian was terminated by USC in 2015 after repeated instances of drunken behavior. Prior to the 2015 season, he was caught on video slurring his words and saying multiple expletives at a booster event. Later in the season, he was allegedly intoxicated during various team meetings, practices and even games. Former Athletic Director Pat Haden fired Sarkisian in October 2015, naming Clay Helton as the interim head coach. In his lawsuit, Sarkisian alleged that USC did not allow him time to undergo treatment for alcoholism, prior to his ouster. He said he was going through a divorce at the time. “Instead of supporting its head coach, Steve Sarkisian, when he needed its help the most, USC kicked him to the curb,” read his complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court a couple of months after his termination. In the case, Sarkisian aimed to receive the outlying $12.6 million from his original contract. He sued USC on the basis he was fired over a disability. However, those allegations were shot down in the arbitration hearing. Per Deadspin, the hearing concluded that he was terminated over his detrimental behavior related to alcoholism, ruling it a “failure to control a controllable disability.” “We are pleased that the arbitration has reached its rightful conclusion and we wish Steve Sarkisian well,” USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann said in a statement.After his exit from USC, Sarkisian was hired as an offensive analyst at Alabama in 2016. He coached their offense in the 2017 National Championship game. He is entering his second season as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. Prior to his short-lived tenure as Trojans’ head coach, Sarkisian was head coach at Washington from 2009-13. He has a long history with USC, also working as an assistant under Pete Carroll from 2001-2008.