That goal has now been realized as the Badgers—announced Sunday as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and the top seed in the Midwest Region—will play at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, Wis. With a pair of victories next weekend, they would then play in the Frozen Four just down the road in Milwaukee at the Bradley Center.
"We take time to look back at where we've been and what we've been through, to bring this team back to the No. 1 overall in the country is pretty special," senior captain Adam Burish said. "From our freshman year to now, being one of the worst teams to being the top team in the tournament is pretty special for us."
Everything seems to be looking in the Badgers' favor. They are the No. 1 seed, will play in front of what will most likely be a home crowd and in an arena where they were able to practice a little more than a month ago.
"We have some familiarity with Green Bay having played there this past month," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "When these guys were younger we played there against Michigan Tech. Ultimately, it's still about these young men."
"Those Green Bay people, I'm telling you guys, I played there for a year. Those people are nuts for their sports," said Burish, who played a season with the Gamblers of the United States Hockey League before enrolling at Wisconsin. "That place is going to be packed…and they're going to be loud and they're going to be screaming. It's going to be … a mini-Kohl Center feeling."
However, just like it has been for much of this season when UW was the No. 1 school in the national rankings, the No. 1 overall seed also means that the Badgers will have a big bulls-eye on their back from the drop of the puck.
"We're obviously set up nice here with being in Green Bay and if we win, ultimately being in Milwaukee," Ryan MacMurchy said. "But there's a lot of great teams. I think a lot of teams see us as being one of the stronger teams and a tough team to knock out."
UW will face off against Bemidji State, the fourth seed in the Midwest Region and 16th seed overall on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.
It will be the first meeting ever between the two teams. That situation could make a team a bit nervous, but the Badgers are confident and excited about taking on a new team.
"It's something new, it's something different," Burish said. "It's fun, it's a new challenge and our guys are excited about it."
Joining the two teams in the Midwest Region is No. 2-seed Cornell, which will face third-seeded Colorado College in the later game Saturday.
For the Badgers, the time is now. They may have had their stumbles along the way—they failed to accomplish their so-called "intermediate goals"—but they can put all of that behind them now and focus on fulfilling their main preseason objective.
Despite being up eight points in the WCHA standings in January, Wisconsin was unable to secure the MacNaughton Cup. Then, this weekend, the Badgers squandered a 2-0 lead against North Dakota in the WCHA tournament semifinals and lost out on its chance for the Broadmoor Trophy.
But they have to put that all behind them now, and will use a strong Saturday afternoon performance—a 4-0 shutout over Minnesota—as a momentum-builder heading into the NCAA Tournament.
"I have the utmost confidence in our team," MacMurchy said. "It's hard to win four games in a row when every team is one of the best 16 teams in the nation. But we're so confident right now. We feel really good about last night, that's exactly what we needed going into this tournament."