Robert Morris No Longer Unknown

After coming in second place at the Letty McFadden Tournament, beating then-No.8 Notre Dame in the process, No. 13 Wisconsin hockey prepares for veteran Robert Morris.

MADISON – Head coach Mike Eaves knows that, every year, the opening weekend for his Wisconsin Badgers gives him a chance to see what kind of talent he has to work with for the upcoming season.

With what Eaves saw in Dayton from his 13 underclassmen, he has every reason to be excited.

Playing perhaps their toughest home opener in two decades (a home series with eventual NCAA finalist Minnesota kicked off UW's 1988-89 season), the Badgers got goals from all four lines in their upset over No.8 Notre Dame and erased a pair of two goal deficits in a 5-3 loss to Ohio State.

"I thought the energy level and strength was great on (Ohio State)," Eaves said. "As we get into the semester and the grind of the WCHA, it will be something they'll have to deal with it."

Opening up on the road and out of state for only the third time in 12 years was also a welcomed change for Eaves. In the past, Wisconsin would open the non-conference season against unranked opponents (Mercyhurst, St. Lawrence, Wayne State). Playing two veteran ranked teams on the road was a welcomed challenge for Eaves, especially being able to take his seven freshmen on the road so early in their career.

"Going on this trip was a chance for everyone to come on the road and have no real distractions," Eaves said. "You're in the motel together; everywhere you go you're together. I think that can be a big benefit. I think going on the road and being around each other was a B12 shot for us."

The B12 shot will be needed this weekend when Wisconsin takes on a veteran Robert Morris squad. Playing in the CHA conference, Robert Morris delivered a shock to the college hockey world, beating then-No.9 Boston University on its way to winning the Nye Frontier Classic in Anchorage. Located in tiny Moon Township, Pennsylvania, Robert Morris is led by 14 seniors and will look to make another statement this weekend.

"They have 14 seniors and they'll be a crusty old bunch of college students who are probably as old as Ross Carlson was when he graduated," Eaves said. "It'll be a challenge. They'll be strong, physical and want to make another statement this weekend."

The last two weekends are signs of things to come for the Badgers in terms of squaring up against veteran teams early in the season. In addition to Notre Dame and Robert Morris, the Badgers next two opponents (Michigan Tech and No.1 North Dakota) are units full of seniors. In relation, the Badgers have four seniors and seven freshmen on their roster, which excites Eaves that he'll be able to get into a rhythm with the youthful Badgers right out of the gate.

"In all actuality, it's a pretty darn good schedule for us having a young team because we'll be able to set in stone the repetitions of practice (with) the way we want to play," Eaves said.

With Wisconsin's home opener this weekend, Badger fans will get their first look at one of most talented freshmen classes in Wisconsin history. In June, forward Kyle Turris, defenseman Ryan McDonagh and defenseman Brendan Smith were all chosen in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, making the Badgers just the third college hockey school to have three first-round draft picks in the same draft.

The new look Badgers are going to bring plenty of speed and agility into the Kohl Center, something that Eaves believes will make this team fun to watch.

"I think people are going to see a team that can skate and have a little more getty-up in their step, pass the puck and make some things happen offensively," Eaves said. "It's going to be a little bit of a different look (for the fans)."

Mike Eaves (8:25) -

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