Sophomore forward Michael Mersch has complimented the 10 points Mark Zengerle has scored the past five games, scoring eight points of his own with four assists and four goals in that span.[/media-credit]Just three weeks ago, the sun was setting quite early on the 2011-12 Wisconsin men’s hockey season. The Badgers had just dropped their fifth straight game, falling nearly to the bottom of the WCHA cellar with just lowly Alaska Anchorage dangling below them.After being eliminated from top six contention in the WCHA standings for a first round home playoff series, Wisconsin begrudgingly extended its losing streak to five games, at the hands of Denver in the Kohl Center and hit rock bottom. But apparently new life can be found in the eleventh hour for a team that never quit despite a series of hard-fought battles that failed to yield the positive results the Badgers had been searching for.“A month ago we were still trying to get home ice,” sophomore forward Michael Mersch said. “I think it was St. Cloud that things kind of fell apart, but we picked ourselves up from them, we realized we were going to have to go on the road and those road wins against Bemidji [State] and Minnesota helped us become a more confident team.”Suddenly, UW reeled off four consecutive victories, a game two win against Denver and three straight road games with a sweep over Bemidji State and a game one victory at No. 5 Minnesota, before Minnesota rallied in the third period of game two to halt Wisconsin’s streak Saturday.“I would argue that we played some good hockey before we had that big game against Denver,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said. “Everything came together by us scoring five goals and timely goals, but we played well in Mankato [against St. Cloud State]; we could have won both games. We played competitive up at North Dakota and then Denver at home, and Friday we weren’t very good, but Saturday [we won 5-2]. We have been doing good things for a while, and it came together that Saturday against Denver and we’ve been able to carry that on.”With the drastic change in results, the level of confidence Wisconsin is portraying increased dramatically. Immediately after the fifth consecutive loss, the players appeared to be as low as they had all season. For a team that started the season 1-8-1 on the road, a road playoff series was the last thing the Badgers were looking forward to. Now, they can’t wait.“The confidence plays a big factor,” Mersch said. “When we played Denver at home we kind of got a feel for them and what they play like. The win we had against them Saturday night was a big confidence boost for us.”Sophomore center Mark Zengerle lead the Badgers in points this season and also has been the primary catalyst during Wisconsin’s last five games, tallying 10 points on two goals and eight assists over that stretch.But it hasn’t been all about one or two individuals. Seventeen different players have scored points over the recent impressive streak.“We’re a pretty close team, and I think everyone has just been playing their part and wanting to win,” Zengerle said. “You get down to the end of the season and start looking and there is no, ‘Oh well. We’ve got next weekend.’ You are playing for your season and playing for your life out there.”Mersch too has put together a remarkable string of games, scoring eight points, second-most to Zengerle over that time, and says that working on the power play with Zengerle has helped boost the level of his game.“I think our power play is finding its niche, and I have been playing with Zengerle a little bit, so that obviously helps because he is a point getter and he produces offense,” Mersch said. “Things are just coming together at the right time and not just for me individually. Tyler [Barnes] has a great weekend in Minnesota, Mark almost has 50 points this year, obviously Justin [Schultz] is contributing and has been all season, but things are just starting to come together, and we’re getting some goals and points from our back line guys.The Badgers have said all season long that they felt like the team was a lot better than their record indicated. As the WCHA playoffs begin Friday, perhaps Wisconsin’s opening round matchup, Denver, and others will start to recognize that and fear a potential series with the Badgers.“We have talked since day one about being a championship caliber team,” Eaves said. “Now, there are certain elements that those championship-caliber teams have and we have been pushing for that all year. We’re closer to that now. Are we there? Only if we go on an unbelievable run, but that is why you play the game. That is what makes basketball crazy in March, you get the Cinderella teams, and we certainly fall in that category right now.”
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah has warned his players that no-one is guaranteed a place in his final squad for the 2013 African Cup of Nations.The Black Stars trainer has left out several key players for the international friendly against Cape Verde in Lisbon, Portugal on Wednesday.Goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Kwadwo Asamoah, John Boye, Isaac Vorsah as well as Ayew brothers Andre and Jordan have been omitted from the squad that will take on the Blue Sharks.Captain Asamoah Gyan has been excused for the game after he lost his mother last week.The former Ghana captain is in the final phase of naming his final squad for the continental showpiece and has therefore invited those on the fringes including shot-stopper Daniel Nii Adjei, Fatau Dauda, Nana Kwesi Asare, Richmond Boakye-Yiadom, Richard Kissi Boateng, Derek Boateng, Samuel Inkoom and Albert Adomah to impress.There are also debut call-ups for Inter Milan whizkid Joseph Alfred Duncan as well as in-form Maritiburg United defender Awal Mohammed and South African-based Edwin Gyimah. It is widely believed those left out are sure candidates to make the final cut for the Nations Cup in South Africa but coach Appiah insists no-one has an automatic place in his final 23-man squad.‘It is not whether someone is going to the Cup of Nations or not. There are some players that I need to take final decisions on,” Appiah said“As to those not called are guaraanted places in the team is not correct. Everyone has got a chance to go.“The important thing is to look at those who are really commited to fight for Ghana. I will be looking at disciplinary aspect as well.“I believe anyone chosen to play in either friendly or competitive match must prove their worth so that I can make the right decision.”The Black Stars are housed in group B where they will take on old foes DR Congo, Mali and Niger in Port Elizabeth. Ghana will be looking to end a 31-year-wait for an African crown in South Africa.