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Badgers Draw Pioneers In WCHA First Round Playoffs

Jason Zucker will draw the attention of the Wisconsin defense this weekend. Photo: Matthew Semisch (
Jason Zucker will draw the attention of the Wisconsin defense this weekend. Photo: Matthew Semisch (

Wisconsin Travels To Denver For Best Of Three Series

Going into last weekends series it was all but a foregone conclusion that Wisconsin was either heading to Denver or North Dakota in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. When the dust settled late Saturday night, Wisconsin was matched up with the Pioneers.

The Badgers hosted Denver three weeks ago and played well, earning a split against a good Pioneer club.

Asked to gauge his teams confidence heading into the playoffs, Mike Eaves was adamant that the confidence his young club is showing is not phony.

"It's legitimate. We feel it from the inside out, intrinsically. We've been on the road here the last couple weekends. We've won three out of four. We were in a position to win four out of four," Eaves said.

"So I think, intrinsically, we understand what it takes, and we just get on that plane and head into Denver and continue what we've been doing. But I think it's legitimate, what we're feeling inside."

Wisconsin had struggled on the road in the first half of the season, but have seen their fortunes change of late. The Badgers are 4-4 on the road in the second half, including winning three of their past four games.

Denver's Magness Arena houses a 200x85 foot ice surface which is much narrower than the one the Badgers have at the Kohl Center. Eaves noted that his team played just fine two weeks ago on a small sheet in Bemidji.

"We're going to be playing on a different sheet of ice. We recognize that fact. We'll be practicing on that this week, and, you know, we played at Bemidji, which was a small sheet," Eaves said.

"That factors into that feeling of being legitimate with our confidence. So all those things add up into us having a basic feeling that we can get the job done should we continue to play like we are."

Wisconsin will certainly have their hands full this weekend as Denver didn't earn the #3 seed in the WCHA playoffs by accident.

Eaves noted that recent success against Denver will go a long ways towards the confidence of his team this week.

"I think that's part of what makes our feeling legitimate is having played well here against (Denver) and taking that and using that as we go forward."

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