Engel finds niche at new position

first_imgWith zero goals scored entering this season, Josh Engelmight not have seemed like the most likely candidate to switch to forward.But with a strong incoming class of defensemen entering thefray for the Badgers at the beginning of the season — including NHL Entry Draftfirst-round picks Ryan McDonagh and Brendan Smith — the position was becomingcrowded, and something needed to be done.”The coaching staff talked about it and brought me in andasked if I would do it,” Engel said of the switch. “We had a lot of depth ondefense, and a lot of good guys coming in. Instead of making the decision tosee who’s going to sit out that game, they just asked me if I would move toforward.”The decision to change positions was a tough one for Engel.After playing on defense for the previous three years of his UW career, Engelknew the move had to be made.”I was a little disappointed at first, but then I kind ofunderstood,” Engel said. “I thought it would be a challenge. I wanted to face achallenge.”I [also] just wanted to do whatever was best for the team.”Doing what’s best for the team meant moving to offense, aposition that Engel has finally become comfortable with.”He’s done really well,” forward Ben Street said. “He keepsit really simple. … He makes a lot of smart plays.”Engel broke out with his biggest game of the year — andcareer — Saturday against St. Cloud State. He had his first multi-goal game asa Badger while skating on the team’s second line with Blake Geoffrion andPatrick Johnson. The second of the two goals, which came with two and a halfminutes remaining in the contest, proved to be the game-winner.”I haven’t had two goals since high school,” Engel said. “Itdefinitely felt really good.””The puck just came right to him, but that can happen whenyou’re in the right place at the right time,” defenseman Davis Drewiske said.”If you put yourself in the right position, your chances of scoring reallyincrease.”The line of Engel, Geoffrion and Johnson has clicked for theBadgers, as they were responsible for four of the team’s seven goals in theweekend series against St. Cloud State.”Being on that line with Geoffrion and Patrick Johnson was aline that has kind of evolved into a line that can play against the otherteam’s best,” head coach Mike Eaves said. “You know what you’re going to getfor the most part.”Even before the multi-goal night, Eaves said he saw the typeof play from Engel that the coaching staff was looking for following his transition.Engel scored in the team’s first game of the season against Notre Dame andlater had a streak in which he recorded assists in three out of four games.”He knows how to play without the puck because he was adefenseman,” Eaves said. “[His line] played so well without the puck that theyactually created scoring chances and took advantage of it.”Despite the recent success he has had finding the net, Engelis the first to admit that he isn’t Wisconsin’s first threat on offense.”I’m not going to be going out there and scoring all thetime like (Kyle) Turris is going to be doing, or [Ben Street] or Blake,” Engelsaid. “I’m sort of fitting into my role right now, which is more defensive, butthen once we get into the zone I try to get in front of the net and causetrouble for the goalie.”Senior defenseman Davis Drewiske has noticed Engel hasbecome a lot more comfortable at his new position.”Obviously he’s a smart player, so I think he’s made a goodtransition,” Drewiske said. “It’s a different viewpoint playing forward than itis from playing defense. I think he does a very good job with his position, andhe knows where he’s supposed to be.”Drewiske, who played forward a bit at the end of lastseason, understands the difficulty of having to fit into a new role on the ice.”I think it’s a tribute to Josh, and really like a lot ofguys on this team, that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to help theteam,” Drewiske said. “Maybe he wasn’t thrilled about it at first, but he’sworked hard, he’s been excited to be here, and he’s done a great job.”With the background he has brought to UW’s offense, Engelhas been able to help out on defense as well while he’s on the ice.”He’s been a key player for us as a defensive forward,”Drewiske said. “He has great awareness; he understands the defensive side ofthe game very well. … It’s like having a third defenseman out there.”As far as he’s come in his adaptation to the forwardposition, Engel admits that he’s still got a lot to improve upon as the Badgershead into the second half of the season.”You have to learn a different side of the game,” Engelsaid. “It was kind of tough right away, but the coaches are always working withme. I’m trying to learn, but I still have a long way to go.”last_img


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