Defenseman John Ramage and the Wisconsin defensive corps will have their hands full against a very talented Bulldogs top line.[/media-credit]Mike Eaves knows a thing or two about scoring. As the all-time leading scorer in Wisconsin men’s hockey, he’s no stranger to offensive talent.Even as a coach, talented players have fallen under his watch, including four 50-point scorers last season.So what does Eaves have to say about Minnesota-Duluth’s trio of Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine?“Pretty slick,” he said, shaking his head a bit. “Pretty slick.”Slick, indeed.The trio makes up three of the top four point-getters in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this season, with Jack and Mike Connolly piling up 18 and Fontaine producing 16. This is no surprise after all three totaled 33 points each during league games alone in 2009-2010.So when the No. 1 Bulldogs come to the Kohl Center this weekend, they bring arguably the No. 1 line in the country as well.“Last year they were probably the top line in the WCHA point-wise and skill-wise,” defenseman Jake Gardiner said. “They’re little guys, but they can put up big numbers and do damage on you.”That’s high praise from Gardiner, who had 2010 Hobey Baker winner Blake Geoffrion on a line with current Badgers Jordy Murray and Craig Smith in front of him last season – not to mention a line with Derek Stepan (54 points), Michael Davies (52) and Ben Street (30).But the big difference between those lines and what UMD puts out might be best explained in percentages. As in last season, Fontaine and the Connollys accounted for 135 of the Bulldogs’ 354 points scored (38 percent).No matter what the opposing team tries to do, those three score.“You think that you’ve got one thing shut off and because they play well together, their instinct, they’ve got good skills, they’re quick,” Eaves said. “We’ll have to be very good against them.”Last season, Wisconsin played just one two-game series with Minnesota-Duluth, earning a split in Duluth. UW came on top with a 5-2 win in the first game, keeping UMD’s Big Three off the score sheet. In game two, they wouldn’t be denied though, contributing a combined two goals and three assists in a 4-0 win – the first time all season the Badgers were shut out.So far, the trio is on the same track as last year, accounting for 39 percent of the Bulldogs’ points scored. And instead of succumbing to the “all your eggs in one basket” pitfall, they’ve led UMD to a 9-1-2 start this season.“They’re really offensive,” sophomore defenseman John Ramage said. “They work well with each other and they get open for each other, so it’s something you’ve got to be aware of.”“From what I saw last year, there wasn’t too much structure, just play and flow,” Smith said. “And that’s sometimes a pretty scary thing with two of the most skilled players in the league.”The chemistry the three have shown is the biggest reason Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly and Fontaine have put up such numbers, despite having targets on their backs. Jack Connolly put up a goal and four assists in Minnesota-Duluth’s tough sweep of Michigan Tech last week.It’s one thing to put skilled players on a line together; it’s another entirely for them to show such chemistry. It’s something that doesn’t go unnoticed when playing against a line like that.“Watching (the NHL’s Canucks) Vancouver play last night, Henrik and Daniel Sedin; those guys definitely have that chemistry,” Gardiner said.And as far as the UW junior is concerned, UMD’s top line has that same connection. Jack Connolly, Mike Connolly and Fontaine have combined for 32 assists; 27 of those assists came on goals scored by one of the three.Simply put, they feed each other well.“That’s the best offensive scenario, you can have three guys that have skill, that have good chemistry,” Eaves said.So, UW will need to be up to the task of beating skilled veteran forwards again. The Badgers got a lesson in playing veteran teams last weekend, getting outplayed by an experienced North Dakota team.And even last season, when Wisconsin boasted arguably the best defensive corps in the country, the Badgers’ D couldn’t keep the line off the board both nights.This season presents a taller task, as the Bulldogs are older, but the Badgers took a step back in age. In Frankie Simonelli and Joe Faust, UW starts a duo of freshmen as one defensive pair and two of UW’s most experienced defensemen are sophomores.“We just gotta stay in the passing lanes, hit them early and often, get them off their game,” Gardiner said.Eaves loves to talk about taking away time and space. As a skilled forward himself, Smith agrees that strategy works for defenses.“Taking time and space away,” Smith said of what throws him off his game. “If they’re making good gap on you and don’t give you a lot of room with the puck, forcing you one way, that’s pretty tough to counter.”Eaves wasn’t particularly happy with his team’s defense as a whole against UND and likens effective defense to a fist – playing together, rather than spread out. There were a lot of lessons to be taken away from last weekend; there’s not a lot of time to implement them either in a November that’s only getting more difficult.“What we’re working all week is covering D-zone, taking time and space away,” Ramage said. “Hopefully that will shut them down.”
Mid-Year Report 2018…growth projections still below original figureDespite the economy growing by 4.5 per cent in the first half of 2018, the traditional sectors, such as sugar and rice, have seen decline in their performances, with contractions of 30.6 and 3.8 per cent respectively.This was revealed in the Finance Ministry’s Mid-Year Report 2018, which was laid in Parliament on Wednesday and which focuses on the state of the economy and performances of various sectors.Finance Minister Winston JordanFinance Minister Winston Jordan, in addressing the National Assembly about the country’s economic performance, admitted that the gold sector also suffered a decline of 9.1 per cent.This is equivalent to a decrease of 288,114 ounces in gold declaration. The report also revealed that this represented a 19.4 percent shortfall (below the original projection set by Government).The minister in his report also noted that there are a number of downside economic and fiscal risks to the economy, both domestic and external, which can frustrate the achievement of the various revised targets.In relation to sugar production, the report stated that this continued to be impacted negatively by a sub-optimal mix of factors, which also include deficient cash flow alignment and the undue absence of a board to oversee the management of the remaining sugar estates.“The SPU (Special Purpose Unit) will need to accelerate efforts to divest/diversify the closed estates in order to provide a much-needed injection of cash to facilitate retooling and the continued operations of the restructured Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) under the soon-to-be-named board,” it stated.Importantly also, the report added that if this does not materialise quickly, there is a real danger of GuySuCo renewing its reliance on the treasury beyond the sum budgeted in 2018. Government recently named a new Chief Executive Officer for the company, and has promised to name a new board soon.Higher-than-expected levels of rainfall and the impact of climate change were also cited as economic and fiscal risks. The report noted that this continues to threaten economic activity across several sectors within the economy, particularly sugar, rice, forestry, mining and construction.Another issue listed in the report is the pace of implementation of the Public-Sector Investment Programme (PSIP). It improved from 23.6 percent on average to 31.8 percent at the first half of the year, with several constraining factors continuing to stymie further progress.Inadequate leadership, it said, is further complicated by a limited pool of evaluators and qualified contractors; the absence of procurement by a limited pool of qualified contractors; the absence of procurement planning; and the inability to attract qualified engineering and procurement specialists.“Cabinet is in the process of addressing the weak management across budget agencies undertaken the PIMA, an action plan has been drafted and implementation of project appraisal systems is anticipated to improve the pace of implementation in future years,” it also noted.GrowthHowever, despite these issues, the report indicated that growth in the economy was more broad-based than in 2017, with robust performances in the agriculture, fishing and forestry sectors of 3.4 percent. Other crops, fishing, livestock and forestry industries all experienced growth over the same period, with the latter two growing by a commendable 29.1 percent and 18.1 percent respectively.Growth of 8.2 percent was also recorded in the services sector, and 13.4 per cent in the construction sector. This significant increase in the construction sector is attributed to higher building imports by 24.7 per cent.Meanwhile, production in the bauxite industry reached its highest level since 2013, surpassing 2017 by 21.1 per cent. This has led to a revision of the forecast growth of the industry upward from 23.3 per cent to 29.9 per cent. There was also growth in other mining of 31.2 percent, driven by the production of diamonds and other stones, which increased by 13.3 per cent and 45.5 per cent respectively.In addition to that, the Government has also revised its growth rate for 2018 to 3.7 per cent, which is close to the initial rate of 3.8 percent. Government has subsequently revised the economic growth rate for 2018 to 3.4 percent. This figure was touted a few months ago after several revisions were made.Guyana’s last best growth rate was 5.2 per cent, recorded in 2013. World Bank records show Guyana’s growth rates as follows: in 2014, it was 3.8 per cent; in 2015, it was 3.2 per cent; and in 2016, it was 3.3 per cent. For 2017, initial projections of 3.8 per cent were revised to 3.1 per cent. This figure then went to 2.9 per cent before the final figure of 2.1 per cent was determined.