As the leaves begin to change and the temperature drops, it’s starting becoming that time of year again; Badgers hockey season.
The Badgers stumbled last year from what is usually one of the nation’s most successful hockey programs. With a 21-16-4 record the Badgers missed a chance to compete in the Frozen Four tournament as its tough schedule got the best of them.
This season the Badgers will face a similarly tough schedule, though a majority of its games are at the Kohl Center where the Badgers finished 14-6-2 last season and over the past three seasons have a combined 43-17-7 record.
The Badgers open its season against the Northern Michigan Wildcats at home on Oct. 7th and 8th. The last time the Badgers faced the Wildcats was in the 2009-10 season where they lost both games at home.
The following week UW will travel to Michigan Tech. Over the past two seasons UW has swept Michigan Tech going 8-0 while outscoring them 41-12.
The Badgers return to the comfy confines of the Kohl Center to face the always tough North Dakota Fighting Sioux. The Badgers were swept last season by the Fighting Sioux in the team’s only meeting.
Rolling into November the Badgers will face rival, Minnesota at home on the 11th and 12th. The Badgers annually face the Gophers both home and away with this year being no different. The past three seasons neither team has been able to gain an edge on one another. In its last 12 meetings they have tied three times while the Gophers have won 5 of those games.
The Badgers face the Gophers in Minneapolis to round out the regular season March 2nd and 3rd.
A month later the Badgers get an extremely tough test taking on the defending national champions, the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. The Bulldogs went 26-10-6 in 2010-11 seasons while winning its first hockey championship in the team’s 50th season. The University of Michigan fell to the Bulldogs 3-2 in overtime, the Bulldogs 15th overtime game of the season.
The Badgers did hand the Bulldogs one of its 10 losses but lost three other games. The second weekend of December the Badgers face the defending champs at the Kohl Center for the only showdown with the Bulldogs.
The Badgers will get another shot at a past national champion in mid February. The University of Denver Pioneers will play at the Kohl Center on Feb. 17th and 18th. The Pioneers won back-to-back national championships in 2003-04 and 2004-05. The Badgers were winless last season against the Pioneers going 0-1-1 in its only meeting.
Bucky's 2011-12 season will again be tough. The Badgers will need to take care of opponents far less superior to them, while playing tough with the elite teams on its schedule to avoid a second straight year of missing the tournament.
With just over two weeks until the puck drops for real, the Badgers have an opportunity to make some noise this season, for good or bad.