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First place at stake in Madison

With a win tonight, the Wisconsin men's hockey team will find themselves in the same predicament as the Badger women's team, in that it will be in first place in the WCHA for the time being.

The Badgers sit one point back of first place Denver and North Dakota, and can leap over both teams by beating the Pioneers at the Kohl Center later today.

North Dakota does not play until 10 PM CT each night as it visits Alaska-Anchorage, and Wisconsin would need help from the Seawolves to leave the weekend in first place.

The Badger women's team jumped into first place for the time being this afternoon in the final weekend of the WCHA regular season, leading Minnesota by one point but the Gophers have two games with St. Cloud tonight and tomorrow night as they control their own destiny.

Anyways, Wisconsin will have to take care of business on home ice. The Badgers were off last weekend, and it's always interesting to see how a team plays coming off a bye.

Denver has played well at the Kohl Center historically, with a dominant 11-2-2 record. However, Wisconsin did win the last game against the Pioneers in Madison in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semis last season 6-2. The Pioneers come off a tie with Colorado College last Friday night in a home and home split out over a few weekends.

Sophomore defenseman Brendan Smith returns to the ice after missing eight games with a wrist injury. I talked to him and practice this week and he seemed extremely anxious to get back into the action. He's been a force on Wisconsin's power play this season, scoring all seven of his goals on the man advantage.

Denver's power play is a pretty interesting case study, in that the Pioneers have scored 70% of their power play goals in just 11 of their 30 games, and is succeeding at just 7.3% in the remaining 19 games.

Like all WCHA games, I'm not sure anyone has an idea of what to expect this weekend. Will Denver continue its success against Wisconsin in Madison? Or will Wisconsin ride the momentum it built with a sweep at Minnesota two weekends ago.

Tune into WSUM's coverage of Wisconsin hockey Friday and Saturday at 6:45 PM CT at