MEGHAN CONLIN/Herald photoMany have seen him fly around the Kohl Center ice running into opposing players, blocking shots or treating the rink like a Slip ‘n’ Slide. Many have wondered how somebody with such a small frame can afford to play with such abandon.Ask senior Nick Licari, though, and he’ll say he has to play that way.”It might be kind of cliché, but it was the way I was brought up,” the 5-foot-8 winger said. “My parents, right when I turned 16, made me get a job. I wasn’t necessarily self-dependent, but they made me work for what I had.”Being small doesn’t make him more elusive to the other team, even though he can be. But it’s hard to be elusive when he is right under the chin straps of every opposing player that comes within five feet.”I’ve always been kind of a little scrapper,” Licari said. “It’s just the way I am. I try to work hard in everything I do on and off the ice.”Licari is the ultimate role player. He scores only once in a while, and he does the little things that go unnoticed by most fans, all while going full throttle from the drop of the puck to the final horn.”I see my role as a guy that creates energy — a guy that’s going to go out there and get a hit to get the team into it physically and emotionally. If I get a chance to score a goal, hopefully I can put it in.”His teammates love playing with him as well. It would be almost impossible not to love a guy that takes pleasure getting in front of a 100-mile per hour slapshot or whose favorite pastime is creaming a guy in the neutral zone.Senior captain Adam Burish played with Licari and A.J. Degenhardt on what was known at the time as the Grind Line, and he felt energized by Licari’s play.”He’s just a little spark plug out there,” Burish said. “Every time you look over your shoulder, there’s somebody on the ice or there’s someone chasing after him.”Like a drummer in a rock band, Licari gets things going for the rest of the team. He sets the pace and rhythm of the game with his play.It’s what he does without the puck that makes him critical to the Badgers’ success.”Those are the things that help win championships,” Burish said. “It’s guys like Licari that create the energy and wear down the defensemen.”Admittedly, Licari would like to score more goals than he does, as his production has fluctuated since he arrived in Madison.Going from fifth on the team with 15 points his freshman year, he dropped to nine points as a sophomore before scoring 17 points a season ago.Licari also had a knack for scoring in high school. The second all-time goal scorer for Duluth East High School, Licari scored 99 points over his last two seasons there.But the way Licari talks about hitting a big hit, it’s hard to believe he misses the scoring all that much.”If a guy’s cutting across the middle, and you absolutely kill him, you get a little bit of a rush,” Licari said of his talent for bone-crunching plays. “Sometimes it’s so pure that you don’t even feel it.”As a senior, Licari will be taking his energy back to his home in Duluth, Minn., for probably the last time this weekend when the Badgers take on the Bulldogs.His family will be there wishing him well as he winds down his successful career as a hockey player.”It will most likely be my last time playing at the DECC, and I played there for five years in high school,” Licari said. “It will be a little different stepping out on the ice, a little awkward, but it’ll be fun.”One thing Licari would like before he leaves, however, is a championship for him and his fellow seniors. The quintet was there for Eaves’ first year as head coach of the Badgers, when the team went 13-23-4 in one of the worst seasons in Wisconsin history.The freshmen, who were recruited by former head coach Jeff Sauer, could have packed it in, but Licari, Burish, Degenhardt, Tom Gilbert and Ryan MacMurchy stayed on and weathered the storm.”For what they went through the first year leading up to this year, they’ve seen the whole process evolve,” Eaves said. “That would be a storybook ending to their career because of where we started and where we’ve come.”Whatever the ending to the story, it won’t be written without Licari’s name in big letters. Whether he makes the big check or scores the deciding goal, the team would be hard-pressed to win it all without him. While Burish wears the captain’s C, he thinks Licari plays another role for the team.”If I’m the heart, then he’s all the valves pumping blood into me,” Burish explained. “He has just as big of a heart and is just as much of a leader as I am.”Proving once again that size doesn’t matter.
Ghana Coach Kwasi Appiah has charged his boys to go all out and win Wednesday’s crucial semifinal clash with their Burkinabe counterparts.The Black Stars secured their place in the semifinal match with the Stallions after defeating Cape Verde in a rather unconvincing 2:0 win in their quarterfinal duel last Saturday.Addressing the media Tuesday ahead of the tomorrow’s game, Kwasi Appiah said that the players are ready to battle Burkina Faso and have their names written in the history books.“I am lucky to have my name as a Nations’ Cup winner. I’ve told the players it’s time for them to write their names too.”On Monday, heavy rains prevent Ghana from practicing on the sandy pitch at Nelspruit, whose unusual terrain several teams have complained about. There are already fears that the nature of the pitch might affect the Black Stars, who are new to that pitch. The Stallions, on the other hand, have played all their four previous matches on that pitch and see that as an advantage over Ghana.But Kwasi Appiah does not appear too worried. “We can’t train on the main pitch but we won’t play there alone. Burkina have played there already, but we have no choice but to compete. We would have preferred one training session on it but it’s not possible so the pitch is no longer an issue,” he told journalists. Nonetheless, the Black Stars Coach said his side is fully prepared and training very well for a tough game against Burkina tomorrow.