The Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team will start the 2021-2022 season with a grand task — defending their Big Ten Hockey regular season champion title.

Though this is a feat worth noting, the team still enters coach Tony Granato’s sixth season behind the bench with unfinished business after the Badgers lost to arch rivals Minnesota Gophers in the final of the Big Ten postseason tournament and were ousted in the opening round of the NCAA tournament by the Bemidji State Beavers — both matchups in which the Badgers were the higher seed.

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As the team looks ahead, they will not have to wait long for their first test of the season, which comes in their Oct. 8 game against the Michigan Tech Huskies at the Kohl Center. The Huskies finished the 2020-2021 season with a 17-12-1 record, but lost their last four games.

Two weeks later, Wisconsin will travel to St. Cloud, Minnesota to take on the St. Cloud State Huskies Oct. 22 and 23. The Huskies made it all the way to the NCAA tournament championship game last season before falling to the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. This is a marquee matchup that will set the tone for the Badgers before they head into conference play the following week.

The conference slate will start against the preseason favorite to top the league, the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan’s roster will boast 13 total National Hockey League Draft picks, including seven first round picks and the 2021 first overall pick Owen Power.

In comparison, the Badgers will have 10 NHL picks, with freshman Corson Ceulemans as the only first rounder after being picked 25th overall in the 2021 Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. This will be a matchup that will allow Wisconsin to measure themselves up against the most talented roster in the nation. The Big Ten schedule does not get any easier for the Badgers as they will welcome Minnesota to the Kohl Center after facing off against the Wolverines.

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Wisconsin will get a break from conference play when they host the Clarkson Golden Knights Nov. 26 and 27, followed by an exhibition game against the United States U18 Team. Clarkson is a team that the Badgers faced two seasons ago, in which they split the two game set. Wisconsin has a 6-5-2 record all-time against the Golden Knights. When Wisconsin takes on the U18 National Team, they will face off against future Badger forward Charlie Stramel.

A new installment in the Badgers’ schedule will be the 2021 Holiday Faceoff in Milwaukee at Fiserv Forum. This will be a four-team mini tournament in which Wisconsin will take on the Yale Bulldogs Dec. 28, and then either the Bowling Green Falcons or Providence Friars, depending on the outcome of the first game.

The Badgers are 7-2-2 against the Bulldogs all-time, but the last time they matched up was in 2010. Wisconsin has very favorable all-time records against the Falcons (7-3-1) and Friars (10-3-0), but they have not seen either of them since 2007 and 2006, respectively.

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The first series of the new calendar year will come against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Madison Jan. 7 and 8. At their last meeting in February 2021, the Badgers blew out the Buckeyes 7-0, part of an active three game winning streak that Wisconsin currently holds against Ohio State.

Wisconsin will wrap up the regular season Feb. 26 in Minneapolis against the Gophers before the Big Ten playoff tournament. The eighth installment of the tournament will be played over three weekends, with all games taking place at the arena of the higher-seeded team.

It will begin March 4 with three best-of-three quarter final series and wrap up March 19 with the conference championship game. The top seed will receive a first round bye.

Overall, the Badgers enter the 2021-22 with high expectations. Though they lost much of their production from an offense that ranked second in the nation with just under four goals per game, they welcomed in seven talented freshmen and returning goalkeeper Cameron Rowe, who finished fourth in the nation in save percentage last season.

They will look to defend their Big Ten regular season crown and make it to the Frozen Four for the first time in coach Tony Granato’s tenure.