The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team is back to the Kohl Center after nearly a month to clash with No. 4 Michigan Wolverines Friday and Saturday.
The Badgers are coming off their best road trip this century, going 5-1-0 in just under a month on the road. It’s also been one of the best starts to a season this century. The last time the Badgers started a season 7-1-0 was 2000-01.
The Badgers come into the game with momentum after taking down No. 1 Minnesota twice last weekend to leap nine spots in the USCHO poll, from No. 14 to No. 5.
The 5-2-1 Wolverines are bringing a booming offense to Madison. They’ve outscored their opponents 45-21 this season and lead the NCAA with 45 goals.
In as many games, the Badgers scored 28 goals and limited their opponents to only 13 — a mere 1.62 goals per game, the NCAA's third-best. How well the rock-solid Badgers defense can shut down this on-fire Wolverine offense will likely play a significant factor in the outcomes of the games this weekend.
The Wolverines’ dynamic power play — best in the NCAA for teams with 10 or more attempts — means the Badgers will need to try to limit penalty minutes to keep the game at even strength.
Badgers netminder Kyle McClellan will be critical in attempts to limit the Wolverines’ offense. McClellan is 14th in the NCAA in save percentage, seventh in total shots saved and eighth in game minutes played relative to goals.
Both teams have already overcome challenging opponents. Wisconsin is 4-1-0 in their matchups against ranked opponents, while Michigan is 2-1-1.
Coming into this weekend, the teams will have opposite points of emphasis. The Badgers will be looking to step in defensively and hold back the Michigan offense. Conversely, the Wolverines will try to find weaknesses in the Badgers defense.
The Badger's offensive numbers have been improving consistently in the past few games. If the Badgers can put forward solid offensive performances, they might completely shift the equations of the game.
The games begin at 7 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.