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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Weekend results solidify Badgers' elite status

After a series like the battle between No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 1 Denver this weekend, there is a temptation to focus on the immediate themes like the massive momentum swings and how the Badgers took the final swing to get a three point weekend.

But to do that would mean missing the larger picture.

The three points and confidence in closing out a top team, as the Badgers did Saturday with a late goal to secure the series win, could pay gross dividends down the road as Wisconsin enters its stretch run to the tournament.

""The best thing about this weekend is the fact, when you play at that level, that's championship hockey,"" Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. ""The intensity, the battle of two teams that have skill, that have strong will, have a strong work ethic, good goaltending. What better way to prepare yourselves for the end of the year than playing these type of games?""

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In those high-level games, the Badgers seemed to have an answer for everything the top-ranked Pioneers could throw at them. Down 2-0 early in the third period each night against a goaltender that had not allowed a goal to Wisconsin in over 180 minutes, the Badgers answered with three goals in just over four minutes. Then even after Denver tied the game, the Badgers generated a number of good chances to answer again.

On Saturday, Wisconsin twice had an answer on both occasions when the Pioneers tied the game, with the second one being the difference between a series win and a two-tie split.

The experience of matching a top team play for play can only help the team down the road.

The Badgers also did well in not allowing the late momentum Friday night dissipate before the next game. They came out strong with the opening goal Saturday and scored three times in the first 30 minutes.

Retaining momentum during the week-to-week grind of the next few months would go a long way in securing Wisconsin's NCAA tournament aspirations.

""Obviously we need to carry the momentum going into Duluth. That's going to be a huge weekend too, they're a pretty hot team,"" senior captain Ben Street said. ""We just gotta keep that going, hopefully we can build on this little bit of confidence we have going, keep that going for the rest of the season.""

That series will mean facing another strong team in No. 4 Duluth, which sits atop the WCHA two points ahead of the Badgers.

One week after his team imploded in the first period of the Saturday game against Colorado College, Eaves saw this weekend's success as an experience his team could take forward.

""There is no better way to reward yourself at the end of the season by winning these types of games,"" Eaves said. ""It's good to see our kids win tough games. It gives us confidence. We understand from the inside-out the types of things we need to do to win these games.""

In the big picture, that understanding may be a crucial factor when March rolls around.

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