MADISON – Like he had done so many times before, defenseman Danny Richmond grabbed the puck and sped up the ice with fellow defenseman Tom Gilbert. But this time was a little different.

The former Chicago Steel teammates, both offensive-minded blueliners, now play for Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively. And on this rush the Wolverine brought the puck into the zone one-on-one against the Badger.

Richmond didn’t score on the play, but he came out on top in the end, as Michigan beat Wisconsin 4-1.

Both players said the game was a little strange because they were so close last year as a potent defensive pairing for Chicago’s United States Hockey League team.

“I roomed with him on the road every night, and I played with him every game last year,” Richmond said. “I went to Canada for a week and lived with him up there. I played with him at the All-Star game. So I played with him all year. It was pretty weird playing against him.”

The pair had looked forward to the game since last year, and met up briefly during warm-ups.

“I just saw him and smiled,” Gilbert said. “And we just started teasing each other a little on the red line.”

After that, they concentrated on their own teams, but Richmond said that Gilbert “did stick out as one of their better players.”

Richmond and Gilbert both stood out for Chicago last year. Richmond led all USHL defensemen in scoring with nine goals and 45 assists in 56 games, and Gilbert netted the most goals (13) among blueliners.

And they didn’t get those numbers by hanging back in their own zone.

“Often times there would be a two-on-three and me and him would be the two guys carrying the puck,” Richmond said with a laugh. “So offensively we were real good last year. Defensively we had our problems, but we worked at it and we got better towards the end of the year.”

Both players are finding that they don’t have quite as much offensive freedom at the collegiate level.

“The coaches were telling me that before the season started and I was like ‘Yeah, okay,'” Richmond said. “But you can’t really tell until you get in the game. You jump in a play and you’re like, what am I’m doing up here?”

While they focus on defense more this year, both players still welcome the chance to join the rush and have made an impact on the scoreboard.

Gilbert is tied as Wisconsin’s leading scorer with 11 points (two goals and nine assists) and Richmond’s totals aren’t far behind his old teammate’s – nine points on two goals and seven assists.

One of those assists came on David Moss’s goal in the second period Friday, and Gilbert expected Richmond to “maybe brag a little” about that and Michigan’s victory. But Richmond said he would take it easy on his friend.

“That stuff comes back to haunt you so you kind of be happy with the win, but don’t rub it in anyone’s face,” Richmond said.

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