The Badgers and Buckeyes, Big Ten rivals in many other sports, know little of each other in men's hockey—they have not faced one another since 1969—but did matchup with eight common opponents this season. For the record, Wisconsin leads the all-time series 8-0-0.
"Big rivals of Wisconsin, that's all I know," senior defenseman Dan Boeser said.
"We are going to have to do quite a bit of homework and find out about their people," head coach Mike Eaves said.
The teams took divergent paths in reaching Albany. The Buckeyes (26-15-0 overall, 16-12-0 Central Collegiate Hockey Association) finished fourth in the CCHA, then swept through the conference's Super Six this weekend, wining three games in three days. Ohio State beat Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) in overtime Thursday and Friday in games in which they never led and then topped Michigan 4-2 Saturday. The Buckeyes have won six straight, including five CCHA playoff games.
The Badgers (21-12-8 overall, 14-7-7 Western Collegiate Hockey Association), on the other hand, limp into the tournament, having won just one of their last five games, all of which were played at home. Wisconsin finished third in the WCHA, but took just one point from Minnesota-Duluth March 5-6, the last weekend of the regular season, when a sweep would have put UW in second place. The following week Wisconsin was ousted in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, losing a best-of-three series with Alaska-Anchorage in three games.
"We would like to think that we can go out and end on a better note," Eaves said. "Hopefully winning our last game."
The Badgers now must prepare for a playoff game after not playing when all but two other NCAA Tournament teams were involved in conference tournaments.
"I think you could kind of look at it as a negative or you could look at it as a positive where, you know, we're two games rested and the other teams aren't," senior defenseman Andy Wozniewski said. "I look at it as a positive. We are so far along into the season I don't think missing one weekend does anything to our team."
"It's a true paradox because while they were going out beating the snot out of each other and getting banged up, we're rested, we're healthy," Eaves said. "The thing that we lose is playing at the game speed.
"Hopefully they really extended themselves over this past weekend and are hurt and banged up and we're rested and ready to go."
If the Badgers win Friday, they will play again Saturday at 5 p.m. against the winner of the matchup between Maine (30-7-3) and Harvard (18-14-3).