The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will open their conference schedule this weekend against the University of Michigan (6-7-1, 0-2-0 Big Ten), hoping to build on their best non-conference start since 2013-14.
The Badgers (7-6-1, 0-0-0 Big Ten) head into Ann Arbor boasting a 7-6-1 record against non-conference foes this season, the seven victories matching the program’s combined non-conference win total for the previous two seasons.
Wisconsin had a chance to carry more momentum into its conference slate. However, they failed to win in a weekend for only the first time this season, notching a tie and a loss against the University of Nebraska Omaha.
Despite coming off of their worst series of the season, Wisconsin is looking to rebound and open Big Ten play strong for a change. The Badgers are 0-3-0 in Big Ten openers dating back to the conference’s inception in 2013-14, going a combined 0-5-1 over those weekends.
Wisconsin is also looking to get back on track against the Wolverines, having gone 0-6-2 since the Badgers’ last victory in 2005. This includes a loss and a tie to open last season’s conference campaign, losing 6-4 before tying 6-6 the following night. Wisconsin is also winless in Ann Arbor since the start of the Big Ten Conference, going 0-4-2 over that period.
The Badgers will be looking to reverse these trends with the help of senior Grant Besse, who leads the team with 17 points, the fifth highest total in the Big Ten. The alternate captain has scored in four straight games, the longest such streak of his career, and looks to keep up his efficient offense in conference play.
Special teams will prove to be key again for the Badgers, who rank fourth in the nation with their +10 mark so far this season. Wisconsin is one of only two teams to rank in the top ten in both the power play and penalty kill, with No. 6 Penn State being the other.
They will have their hands full with a Michigan team who ranks close to the top ten in both, sitting 10th on the power play and 16th on the penalty kill.
Michigan is coming off a series against the Nittany Lions in which they were outscored a combined 11-2 in the two games, with eight of those goals coming on the power play. Wisconsin will be looking to earn head coach Tony Granato his first conference win as the Badgers’ Head Coach, and will look to exploit the Wolverines in a similar way in order to do so.
The series will be played Friday and Saturday at the Yost Arena, with face-off set for 6:30 p.m. both nights.