Wisconsin Badgers have familiar Frozen Four foe
MADISON—They no longer reside in the same conference.
They haven’t occupied same hockey rink since they met Feb. 2 of last season in Grand Forks, N.D.
Yet when Wisconsin opens the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament as the No. 1-seeded team in the Midwest Regional, the foe will be familiar:
North Dakota, UW’s longtime rival in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
“Getting matched up with North Dakota just tells me that the gauntlet starts right now,” UW coach Mike Eaves said Sunday after the 16-team field was announced. “We’re starting with a foe that we have a history with, so it should be an awesome game.”
UW (24-10-2) and North Dakota (23-13-3) meet at 7 p.m. Friday (ESPNU) at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Ferris State (28-10-3) and Colgate (20-13-5) meet at 3:30 p.m. Friday in the first regional semifinal.
The winners meet at 5:30 p.m. Saturday for a berth in the Frozen Four April 10-12 in Philadelphia.
UW secured an automatic berth with a 5-4 overtime victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. That result prevented Ohio State (18-14-5) from getting the automatic berth and allowed North Dakota to secure an at-large berth. North Dakota defeated Western Michigan, 5-0, in the third-place game of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
UW senior defenseman Frankie Simonelli received texts from North Dakota players offering thanks for eliminating the Buckeyes from contention.
“It’s definitely ironic,” Simonelli said of facing North Dakota.
Friday will be the 164th meeting between the programs. UW holds a series lead of 86-65-12.
“I haven’t watched them, but they haven’t changed in the 12 years we’ve been here,” Eaves said. “They’re going to play hard. They’re going to play physical. They’re going to play with pace.
“They’ve got good players.”