A 2nd gold medal in the U18 World Championships and being drafted by his hometown Anaheim Ducks had Nic Kerdiles floating on cloud nine all summer. He was taking summer classes at the University of Wisconsin where he planned to suit up for his freshman season. That was until the NCAA and its sanctions stepped into the picture.
Kerdiles was ruled ineligible for one year by the NCAA stemming from photos posted on social media sites of Kerdiles with his agency. Coach Eaves and the University of Wisconsin appealed the decision and the sentence was reduced to 30% of the regular season (10 games). While it’s better than a full season, the Badgers had to start the season without the services of their promising young forward….and it showed.
The Badgers were trying to catch fire early, but the team started out with one of the worst records in the country (1-7-2) and were battling with injuries to the lineup. They needed a spark, and quick.Enter Nic Kerdiles: stage left, right, and center.
The frosh out of Irvine, California joined his teammates in Colorado to play his first game against the Denver Pioneers. The Badgers didn’t even win the game – they tied – but you could tell immediately that a switch had been turned on and Wisconsin was going to be a SERIOUS threat.
Kerdiles immediately found chemistry with Tyler Barnes and Mark Zengerle as they became the formidable line for Coach Mike Eaves.
Since his return, the Badgers have been almost unstoppable. They’ve posted a 21-5-5 record and Nic has been on a consistent scoring streak.
Most freshman don’t get quality opportunities to produce in their first year of NCAA hockey, but Coach Eaves has stated numerous times that he saw Kerdiles as a weapon in the Badgers top 6. Kerdiles has now scored at over a point-per-game pace this season with 32 points in 31 games.
What may be most miraculous about that stat is that he sits 2nd on the team in points after missing 10 games due to the suspension.
Just last week, Wisconsin found themselves battling for a spot in the NCAA hockey tournament by playing in the championship game of the WCHA Final Five Tournament against Colorado College.
Kerdiles’ line lead the way and Joel Rumpel, the sophomore standout between the pipes, stopped 20 of 22 shots on net as Wisconsin came away with a 3-2 defeat, ending the season on a 6-game winning streak. At the end of the tournament, Kerdiles was named to the All-Tournament team and also took home MVP honors by scoring 3 goals and adding 3 assists in 3 games.
In a year that’s given Nic Kerdiles the highest of highs coupled with the lowest of lows, a National Championship would be icing on the cake. That goal is on the mind of Kerdiles and his teammates as they due battle against the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks tonight in their quest for the team’s first championship since 2006.
With the streak they’ve been on since Kerdiles’ return, it’s no wonder many analysts have picked Wisconsin to go all the way, including Barry Melrose.
At this point, I’m relatively sure that Mike Eaves, the University of Wisconsin, the team, and the Badger faithful are glad Nic Kerdiles wasn’t suspended an entire year – and glad is an understatement.
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