Preview: Stormy Forecast

When they take the ice this weekend against border-rival Minnesota, the Badger men's hockey team knows what is at stake without anybody saying a single word.

MINNEAPOLIS – It's tucked out of sight by the entrance in the locker room at the Kohl Center, out of the way from being a distraction on a daily basis for the members of the Wisconsin men's hockey team.

But if one wanted to stop and glance at the make-shift board that lists the jumbled WCHA standings, the motivation factor it provides is exponential.

With the top six teams separated by five points -- and the top eight separated by seven -- the WCHA standings show how important a series between two upper-half teams is.

So when the No.16 Wisconsin takes on No.9 Minnesota on the Gophers' campus this Friday and Saturday, don't expect head coach Mike Eaves to amp up his team with inspirational speeches or bring up the importance of the series. The scoreboard has already done the talking.

"You don't want to create pressure and put it back on their shoulders," Eaves said. "They walk right by (the standings). It doesn't have to be very long that you walk by it, but you know where you stand."

Look at the standings and Wisconsin (14-11-3, 11-7-2 WCHA) is in third place, three points ahead of Minnesota (12-7-5, 9-6-3 WCHA), which has two games in hand. The Badgers are just two points behind WCHA-leading Denver but are ranked 17th in the all-important PairWise Rankings, a system used to mimic the NCAA selection process.

As it stands right now, UW is ranked 17th, which would leave them watching the tournament from home, but the sensitive standings change multiple times on a weekend, meaning UW has plenty of time to make a move.

"I look to see where they are today and next Friday/Saturday we'll look at it again because it will change then," Eaves said. "So 90 percent of our focus is on what we can do Friday night, and that's what we can control."

While Wisconsin had its hands full with Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, Minnesota was swept in a home-and-home series against previously struggling Minnesota State-Mankato, getting out scored 9-3 in the two games.

"A wounded animal is always a scary thing," Eaves said. "You don't want to get somebody's back into a corner. They'll be all fired up, which will just add more fuel to this weekend."

The Badgers could say the same thing about themselves. A night after grinding out a 3-1 victory, Wisconsin squandered prime scoring chances and committed a costly turnover that led to the game's only game in a 1-0 UMD shutout.

"When we come out on Friday night," Eaves said, "we didn't get the results that we wanted this weekend … and we should have some fire, too."

Standings aside, history haven't been kind to Wisconsin at the new Mariucci, which opened in 1993. A 5-22-2 overall record includes eight- and 11-game losing streaks. UW hasn't won there since sweeping the Gophers in the 2005-06 national championship season.

With a lot is at stake coming down the stretch with home ice for the playoffs and tournament bids up for grabs, there's going lots of scoreboard watching in the WCHA. With a solid performance this weekend, Wisconsin could enter its bye week looking down from atop the mountain.

"This is one of the reasons I think, as an athlete, you get into athletics for these type of weekends," Eaves said. "There's a lot of meaning in it, it's fun, you don't have to work at getting up for it.

"We know what's at stake. There will be two storms coming together on Friday and Saturday night for sure."

No.16 Wisconsin (14-11-3, 11-7-2 WCHA) vs. No.9 Minnesota (12-7-5, 9-6-3 WCHA)

Date/Time - Friday-Saturday, Feb. 6-7 at 7 p.m. CT

Arena – Mariucci Arena (10,000) - 200' x 100'

Television - Live Friday on Big Ten Network (Matt Rosen and Rob Andringa) and Saturday on FSN North (Frank Mazzocco and Doug Woog)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Brian Posick and Mike Cerniglia)

Series – Minnesota trails 150-80-18 (85-23-6 in Minneapolis)

Last Meeting – The Badgers fell 5-2 to Minnesota at the Kohl Center on Oct. 25 when the Gophers scored just six seconds into the game and never looked back. The teams tied 2-2 the previous night in a game the Badgers led 2-0.

Series Notes

This will mark the 239th and 240th meeting between the schools, though there are inconsistencies between the records of the two schools as to the actual series marks

The Badgers are 0-3-1 over their last four games at Mariucci Arena, having tied the most recent meeting, 4-4, on Feb. 23, 2008

Minnesota is the only WCHA team the Badgers have an all-time losing record against

UW has eight players from Minnesota, while UM has one player from Wisconsin

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers' 11 WCHA victories equal their season total from 2007-08 and are just one shy of the team's total from 2006–07.

The Badgers are 11-3-1 over their last 15 league contests dating back to Nov. 1, but are 2-2-0 over their last four league games.

The Badgers are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games against ranked teams after beginning 0-6-1 against ranked foes. The team sits 7-9-1 against teams ranked at the time of the game.

The Badgers are 5-1-1 over their last seven road contests, but have only played two road games since Nov. 22.

Wisconsin currently boasts the nation's top penalty kill at 90.4 percent (160-for-177). The Badgers have not allowed a power-play goal over the last three games and have allowed just one power-play goal in the last six contests. Wisconsin has killed its last 17 penalties and has succeeded on 30 of its last 31 penalty kills.

The Badgers were shutout 1-0 by Minnesota Duluth last Saturday, marking the first time the team was shutout this season and the first shutout since falling 3-0 at St. Cloud State on March 14, 2008. The Badgers went 30 games without getting shutout.


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