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With hometown team next on schedule, Badgers' Ryder Donovan tries to stay under control
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UW MEN'S HOCKEY

With hometown team next on schedule, Badgers' Ryder Donovan tries to stay under control

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Ryder Donovan is the type that doesn't seem to lack for energy and motivation in any setting.

It's possible that he'll reach new levels in both this weekend with the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team.

On Friday and Saturday, the 17th-ranked Badgers host No. 3 Minnesota Duluth, the team that Donovan followed closely in its march to the last two NCAA titles.

How much does this weekend mean to Donovan, who completed his standout Duluth East career with a state tournament appearance last season?

"It's everything," he said. "Ever since June, I've been thinking about this game, as soon as (coach) Tony (Granato) said we were playing them. So I'm excited. It's going to be tough to keep it under control, going into it with so much energy and a lot of motivation in this game."

That's the challenge for Donovan early in his college career, regardless of the opponent. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Vegas Golden Knights draft pick was scratched for last Friday's loss at Boston College but made his debut a night later at Merrimack as the 13th forward on the line chart.

His exuberance became overexuberance late in the game when he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct along with a Merrimack player. He also was called for cross-checking midway through the first period.

Granato doesn't want Donovan to lose the vivacity that's such a big part of his game but said he needs to understand how to best use it.

"Ryder's a great skater," Granato said. "He's got a ton of energy. He's going to get in on the forecheck. He's big, so he can knock people down. But he's got to dial it back a little bit and be a little bit more controlled, and he will."

Donovan, 19, said last Saturday didn't seem like his first college game because of the exhibition contests he played in Vancouver, British Columbia, six weeks earlier and because he has been in Madison since June.

"So I wasn't really nervous," he said. "But it was good to get the first shifts out of the way and get going. Tony wants me to be a hunter this year and just hunt down pucks and use my size and speed. So I just wanted to do that. I thought I did a pretty good job. (I've got to) try to stay out of the box. But I want to bring that to UMD now."

Donovan, whose brother Shay is a UW freshman defenseman and also a former Duluth East skater, is keenly aware that the Badgers are slated to play next season at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, where in February he scored an overtime goal to send the Greyhounds to state.

"I might have to get 40 tickets or something like that," Ryder Donovan said.

Ticket update

The Badgers are expecting to have their largest crowds for a home-opening series in five seasons when the Bulldogs come to town.

As of Tuesday, more than 8,700 tickets had been sold for Friday and 11,230 for Saturday.

Over the last four seasons, the first game in the Face-Off package (the first game of a series) averaged an announced attendance of 7,441, with a 9,012 average for the initial game in the Slap-Shot package (the second game).

In 2014, the Badgers drew announced crowds of 10,605 and 13,621 for the home-opening series against another former Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival, North Dakota.

From the infirmary

Defenseman Mike Vorlicky, who left Saturday's game after being checked in the head, practiced for about a half-hour in a no-contact jersey Tuesday. But he missed Wednesday's practice with a viral illness that's going through the team.

The Badgers are hoping the freshman can go through a full practice Thursday before they have to make a decision on whether he'll play Friday.

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