Hard work pays off for senior

first_imgEvery year, there are a variety of athletes on each of UW’s teams that bring their lunch pails and gritty styles to practices in games, working hard to achieve success on their respective Badger squads.For head coach Mike Eaves and the Wisconsin men’s hockey team, senior forward A.J. Degenhardt exemplifies each of these characteristics.”He’s a guy that brings incredible energy, incredible work ethic on the ice,” senior captain Adam Burish said. “He’s a guy where we might have a couple of bad shifts and you throw A.J. out there, and he’s a spark for you.”Two years ago, the La Crosse, Wis., native spent his time patrolling the ice with classmates Burish and Nick Licari — a three-man crew that became known as the “Grind Line.” Known more for its energy and physical play than its scoring, this line was a group of hard-working guys willing to do whatever it took to win a game.Though the line has long been split up on the line chart, all three players still fit the blue-collar role. But Degenhardt’s story is a bit different.After playing 118 games in the cardinal and white in his first three years at UW, Degenhardt suddenly found himself relegated to taking in most games from the far corners of the Kohl Center — with the other players who aren’t dressed for a particular game sit — to begin this season. Eaves decided to give his young freshman class a chance to play right away, which left little room for Degenhardt, who played in just six contests in the first half of the season.He could have been bitter. He could have given up at practice. But that is not his style.”It’s a tough position to be in,” said Burish, who has been Degenhardt’s teammate for six-straight years, dating back to the USHL, and also his long-time roommate at UW. “He could have taken an angry or salty approach, but he chose not to.””You have to give him a lot of credit because he could have folded the tent,” Eaves said, “but he didn’t.” Instead, he kept bringing his lunch pail, kept working as hard as ever at practice, and has now has not only found his way back into the Badger lineup, but has made a quick impact.”Obviously, at the beginning, it was hard,” Degenhardt said. “I wasn’t seeing a lot of ice time, but I just kind of relaxed and figured I’ve got nothing to lose now, so just go out there and do what I can do, and when I get my chance, try to make the most of it.”He saw the Badger Hockey Showdown — just the second weekend all season in which he dressed for both games — as his time to shine. He tallied a three-point weekend with a goal and assist against Western Michigan and another helper in the Badgers’ win over Northern Michigan.”He was our best forward out there,” Burish said. “He was awesome, and if he keeps playing that way, he’s going to keep playing for us.””It just felt good to go out there and be playing a regular shift again and give the team what I can,” Degenhardt said. His hard work has earned him ice time as well as his first road trip since the Badgers’ WCHA opening weekend at St. Cloud State in late October. He made the trek to Colorado College where … (INSERT WISCONSIN OUTCOME/DEGENHARDT STATS HERE SATURDAY NIGHT).Though he has found his way back into the lineup, don’t expect his work ethic to decline anytime soon. He’s worked hard since his first day on campus, overcome a rough freshman season that was hard on the entire program and battled through perhaps his toughest time at UW earlier this season.He’s found his way through the hard times and should find himself watching fewer games and playing in more down the stretch of his final season at Wisconsin.”A.J’s attitude is just unbelievable in the fact that he’s continued to work and he’s gotten better,” Eaves said. “He’s earned his way back into the program in terms of [playing on a] regular basis. That’s the kind of thing you like to see. Good for A.J. That’s a lesson that will serve him well in life as well.”last_img