Coming off its first 2-0 start since 2004, the No. 2-ranked Wisconsin men's hockey team is hitting the road for its first road test of the season in Massachusetts in the inaugural Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge.
The Badgers (2-0) will face off against No. 7 Boston College (1-1) Friday night before taking on No. 15 Boston University (2-0) Saturday.
"We're going into the den of a couple big-time teams. I know everybody is excited," head coach Mike Eaves said at his weekly press conference. "It is good to go on a trip like this early in the year because it really brings a team together."
While Northern Michigan was no cupcake, this weekend's opponents will give Wisconsin a great chance to see what this team is really made of. Last year's team had just one win on the road over a ranked opponent before December, but this season the coaches will be asking their players for more.
"The mindset is to push. We are going to push forward," Eaves said. "Coming to the rink, you have a couple wins under your belt, you have a little jump in your step and now is time you can put the pedal to the metal as a coach."
In their series with UNM, the Badgers showed that they have the ability to win games in multiple ways.
In Friday's 5-2 win, UW got out to a big early lead and was untested throughout the remainder of the game. Saturday, however, was a different story. In the series' final game, the Badgers were forced to battle in a tight contest and proved they have the intestinal fortitude to pull out a close win.
"I thought Saturday, structurally, we were much better than we were Friday," Eaves said. "Friday night we scored goals that made the game easier for us. Saturday was more of a battle, which was good. I think we would rather have a game like that where we found out early we could find a riddle in a tight game."
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise from last weekend's series was the production of freshman forward Grant Besse.
The Plymouth, Minn., native scored two goals, one in each game, including the winner Saturday night. It is no secret that Besse is a skilled offensive player, but Eaves pointed to two specific traits that make the young sniper so effective.
"He has a unique gift of being able to have that puck on his stick and put it where he wants it. The other unique gift he has is that the puck finds him. Those are qualities you do not teach."
When asked if there were other players he had coached with those same abilities, Eaves gave some pretty impressive comparisons.
"If you go back and watch video... purely offensive guys can make bad plays or bad decisions or make bad shots but somehow for some reason the puck finds its way back on their stick," Eaves said.
"Young Grant has that ability. Michael Davies had that; Derek Stepan had that; Kyle Turris had that and as a coach you try to recruit those kind of players because you can't teach that."