Cincinnati, OH (WQOW) -- The Wisconsin men's hockey team was in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday preparing for the program's 25th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers first opponent is a familiar one -- former WCHA rival North Dakota.
There's some history on Wisconsin's side heading into the NCAA Tournament. In seven previous appearances as a one-seed, the Badgers have advanced to five Frozen Fours and won two national titles.
Of course, being a one seed doesn't guarantee success. But last year it took a conference tournament title for Wisconsin to get into the tournament. The Badgers say they're a much different team this time around.
"One word: experience. You know, talking to the coaches from UMass-Lowell last year, they talked about coming back from the previous year where they got beat and they had this experience in their hip pocket," says head coach Mike Eaves. "We have that experience now from last year, we're an older team, we have that experience so we can use that to our advantage."
"We realized last year how quick it can end. And that's something that everyone has been focused on this week. We're just sticking to the little details and just trying to play our game the best we can," adds senior forward Jefferson Dahl.
Wisconsin will drop the puck against North Dakota on Friday. It'll be the first meeting between the two teams since February of 2013, but the 164th overall.
"It's funny that it's the first year that we have the Big Ten Conference and the NCHC, the first time in how many ever years that we're not scheduled to play each other and it's almost like the hockey gods made sure this year that we were going to play them. Obviously huge rivals, they play very similar to us. They're hard to play against, they have depth at all positions and it should be a fun one," says junior defenseman Jake McCabe.
Wisconsin holds the all-time edge in the series at 86-65-12, but North Dakota has a 2-0 advantage in NCAA matchups. But the Badgers hold the edge in another important category: leadership. The team boasts nine seniors and seven juniors on this year's squad.
"We have an older team and if you look at all sports in the NCAA, most teams that have success are those that have upperclassmen teams. The biggest thing about this group is that their ability to be effective in the locker room with their leadership has allowed this team to stay afloat, keep their heads about them and do good things," adds Eaves.
McCabe adds: "Both teams are playing well down the stretch. I think they have a similar season to us last year. They were struggling at the beginning, but now they're playing well down the stretch here. So, they have a lot of confidence, we have a lot of confidence and it's really going to be a great matchup. We're all looking forward to it."
Wisconsin and North Dakota drop the puck at 7:00 p.m. from Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena.
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