"It's the novelty that makes it new, that puts them in position where they want to go out and have some fun," Eaves said. "They want to put their best foot forward."
After putting its best foot forward, making the 40,890 that packed Lambeau Field go home happy, in February 2006, No.3 Wisconsin will have a chance to appease even more Badgers fans and do so right in its own backyard.
Over 51,000 advanced tickets have been for the Wisconsin hockey doubleheader, featuring the ninth-ranked women's team facing Bemidji State at 2 p.m. and the men square off with Michigan at 5 p.m. With conditions expected to be fair and the temperatures in the middle 20s, the Badgers could see a crowd upwards of 60,000 fans.
"We're excited to see this place filled up," senior tri-captain Ben Street said. "It's going to get even cooler when people are in here. The first guy that scores is going to pumped. That will be pretty cool."
"Obviously it's a lot of fun," junior goalie Scott Gudmandson said. "Anytime we're on the ice, I try to have as much fun as possible. This goes back to growing up and playing outside in the backyard."
Practicing on the ice for the first time Wednesday, players admitted that their toes were pretty cold, their nose was runny and some had wind burn on their cheeks. That didn't stop virtually the entire team from staying late of practice, listening to the echoes throughout the empty stadium as their stick came in contact with the puck or watched as some pranksters tried to fling a puck over the goal posts in the south end zone.
"It's an unbelievable feeling, especially late in the season," said junior forward Patrick Johnson, one of the many attempting post-practice field goals. "It's such a mental and physical grind because the season is so long. To come out and play like a bunch of kids is a relief."
Even Street couldn't contain his excitement. The only player on Wisconsin's roster who skated at Lambeau, Street has no problem with this being the seventh men's modern-era outdoor game (third in the college ranks) or buys into the perception that the uniqueness of an outdoor game is wearing off.
"It's different for me, for whatever reason," Street said. "There hasn't been anything like around here, and I think people (in Madison) are excited to come see it."
As exciting as the event is slated to be, the importance of the competition hasn't gone unnoticed. Wisconsin (15-7-4) is battling stiff competition in hopes of gaining a number one seed when the NCAA Playoffs start at the end of March. No.20 Michigan (16-12-1) on the hand is simply fighting to get in the tournament.
Two teams that play two similar styles of physical hockey, Michigan got the better of Wisconsin, 3-2, when the two teams faced off in Ann Arbor. The Wisconsin upperclassmen talked afterwards about how they couldn't wait to get another shot at the Wolverines. After 10 weeks, the Badgers will get their shot in the most unique of situations.
"When we played them, I thought they were one of the better teams we have played all season," Street said. "It'll be an excited game, and a tough match-up, but we've had a bitter taste in our mouth since losing to them in November. We haven't forgotten that."
Added Gudmandson: "Anytime somebody beats you, you want a little retribution."
More at Stake
As important it is for the men's team to gain an ounce of revenge on Michigan, it's important for the women's team to get points, especially with the ebbs and flows they have experienced this season without its top six scorers and record-setting goaltender.
Having lost just 16 games combined in the previous four years (three of which led to national titles) Wisconsin (15-10-3, 12-9-1-0 WCHA) is still trying to find its rhythm offensively and pile together some wins, as the Badgers longest unbeaten streak this season is only four games.
Sitting in third place, Wisconsin sits one point ahead of Bemidji State (8-13-7, 7-8-7-3 WCHA) heading into this series that concludes Sunday at the Kohl Center.
"Every point that we're able to get is so crucial,'' said UW women's coach Tracey DeKeyser, whose club has only five victories in series openers and split a series with the Beavers earlier this season.
Much like the men team, the women have spent a good majority of this week working on their special teams. While the Badgers have an 86 percent success rate killing off the power play, they have struggled putting the puck in the net on the advantage, converting just 14 percent of the time.
"We need to get everyone involved and everyone needs to contribute," DeKeyser said. "We've been talking a lot about trusting each other so that we're just doing our job and keeping the game simple. We've been too close on too many occasions this year."
Having a rare women's outdoor could be the boost Wisconsin needs to make a strong push towards the NCAA Tournament. Saturday's matinee marks just the second outdoor game involving women's teams, following a New Hampshire-Northeastern match-up at Fenway Park in Boston Jan. 8.
"We're constantly reminded that in our backyard, we have a chance to do something very special," DeKeyser said. "Every day we go by the field or see the advertisements, it's reminds them of the fun things ahead."
No.3 Wisconsin (15-7-4, 11-6-3 WCHA) vs. No.20 Michigan (16-12-1, 11-9-1-0 CCHA)
Date/Time - Saturday, February 6 at 5 p.m. CT
Arena – Camp Randall Stadium - Rink Size - 200 x 85
Television - Big Ten Network
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Brian Posick and Mike Cerniglia)
Live Blog - Badgernation.com
Series – Michigan leads 64-51-7 (UW leads 30-29-1 in Madison)
Last Meeting - Michigan won, 3-2, on Nov. 28, 2009 in Ann Arbor
This will be the 123rd meeting between the two schools dating back to 1922
Michigan and Wisconsin won five Big Ten titles from 1951-81, though the Badgers only competed for 13 of the 23 years.
Wisconsin and Michigan met approximately 42 times outdoors between 1922 and 1935.