Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe is known better for what he can do in his own end, but his offensive game has come a long way in recent years. Never was that on better display than in Friday night’s huge rivalry game at Minnesota.
With the Gophers leading the Badgers 2-1 early in the second period, Wisconsin put on a bit of a passing clinic. However, when Derek Lee’s one-time snapper from the slot got turned away by Adam Wilcox, the puck found Jake McCabe’s stick. Then this happened.
Wow. (A big thank you to @cjzero for the video. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you’re missing out. CJ is a sports video and GIF machine. Always entertaining.)
McCabe knew the Badgers had numbers up front, but Zach Budish closed down the passing lane to prevent a possible feed from the forehand. In one fluid motion, McCabe spun, rifled a pass through traffic, between Mark Alt’s legs and right on the tape of Michael Mersch, who slammed it home for his second goal of the game.
Sure, there’s an element of luck involved — it could have caught a skate easily — but it doesn’t take away the level of skill and strength on the puck that a pass of that velocity and accuracy requires.
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That goal stood as the last of the game, helping the Badgers claim a 2-2 tie despite two of its best players getting ejected and killing off the attached major penalties. For a Wisconsin team that has been spiraling a bit this season amid a flurry of bad news on the injury and coaching fronts, it was an important point in the standings.
For McCabe, that was a well-timed pass on another front. Tim Taylor, USA Hockey’s director of player personnel (essentially the chief scout) for the U.S. National Junior Team was in attendance, I’m told.
McCabe is a bit of a bubble guy for one of the defensive spots on Team USA’s roster. He needs good performances at both ends of the ice to maintain consideration. That was a great example of what he can do.
The second-round choice of the Sabres in 2012 (44th overall) has just been getting better with every season. He has great physical strength and can play with a physical edge, is a smart defender who can take care of his own end and then he’s shown flashes of offensive skill at an increasing rate.
The Eau Claire, Wis., native has four points on the season and it appears the prettiest came last night.
This isn’t the first time McCabe has filed one to the highlight reel. There was also this dandy little pass to Sean Little in the WCHA playoffs last season.
Highlight-reel plays won’t guarantee McCabe a spot on the final U.S. roster, but he’s continued to keep himself in the conversation with his ability at both ends of the ice. Team USA’s pre-tournament camp opens Dec. 16 in New York City. McCabe just may find himself there if he keeps doing things like that.