Looking for the Double Down

Winning seven of its last eight series openers, the Wisconsin men's hockey team, fresh off a 3-2 victory over No.9 Minnesota, knows that record is only half the equation. Going 1-3-1 in their last five Saturday night games, the Badgers know they need a strong effort to leave Minneapolis with a series sweep.

MINNEAPOLIS – One would think members of the Wisconsin men's hockey team would be bouncing off the maroon-encrusted walls of Mariucci Arena after a night like they had on Friday.

Getting badly out matched in the opening 20 minutes, Wisconsin, somehow, found itself with a lead at the first intermission, added to it and held on in the waning minutes to earn a 3-2 victory in Minneapolis for only the third time in the past eight years.

It was a game highlighted by multiple plot twists and turning points, a short-handed tally by Jamie McBain in the first to give the Badgers their initial lead and the career-high tying 43 saves by senior Shane Connelly.

But with a team in the thick of a conference title and playoff race, the Badgers have much more work to be done in the next 24 hours.

"We have to make sure we keep doing the same things, keep things simple and make sure that tomorrow, we take the game to them a little more," McBain said. "We're familiar with the atmosphere and the way they are playing now. Hopefully, we can learn a few things."

Added head coach Mike Eaves: "In this environment, you find out a lot about your kids. It was nice to win this game because there were so many things we could have done better down the stretch and it didn't cost us. This is how your kids learn."

What the Badgers really need to learn is how to parlay the good vibes from a Friday night victory into Saturday night. Over the past five series, Wisconsin has been put in the position for a sweep four times, coming out the victory only once (at Anchorage in early January).

"We've played well on Saturday," said Eaves. "We just haven't found a way to win. We have to find that way to win."

The big problem for Wisconsin is not matching the intensity of a team determined not to be swept or to register a stunning upset.

In the Badger Hockey Showdown, Wisconsin could only manage one goal – an ugly one at that – in the game's waning minutes to steal a tie from a Lake Superior State team that deserved a better fate.

Against four-win Northern Michigan, the Badgers, after showing plenty of rust in a loss on Friday night, squandered a three-goal, third-period lead to the Wildcats, eventually losing in overtime.

Against Colorado College, the Tigers scored three goals in two minutes, 12 seconds and earned a series split while the Badgers couldn't buy a goal in a 1-0 shutout last weekend against Minnesota Duluth.

On night two, the Badgers have played more like the hunted than the hunter, a situation that could potentially get ugly if the trend continues, as Minnesota has lost three-straight games for the first time all season.

"We've been satisfied with getting two points and thinking it was just going to happen for us," Connelly said. "We've got to come out and get right in their face because we know they are going to be coming at us and we can't back down."

Looking at the rankings, Wisconsin can't afford to. While the Badgers are two points behind first-place Denver with two games at hand (and a Feb. 20-21 matchup against the Pioneer looming), Wisconsin is sitting firmly on the NCAA bubble in a tie for 16th in the PairWise Rankings.

With that thought in mind, Wisconsin doesn't need a reminder what a road sweep would do for its fortunes in the coming weeks.

"We need to win tomorrow," Connelly said. "It's a tough place to play to win here. I will celebrate this one for a little bit. It's a tough place to play and win here. We don't have many wins here, but we'll go home and start getting ready for tomorrow. Three to four points is our goal and we have to play better on Saturday nights."

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