Can Big Ten Hockey Tournament Hold a Candle to WCHA Final Five?

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been one heck of a season for coach Mike Eaves and his Wisconsin Badgers (22-10-2, 13-6-1) who come Friday will meet the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal game between third-seeded Michigan (18-12-4, 10-8-2-1 Big Ten) and sixth-seeded Penn State (7-25-2, 3-16-1-0 Big Ten) in the first-ever Big Ten hockey tournament.

The tourney takes place at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., site of the always well attended Red Barron Final Five – an invite to the elite inside the former WCHA.

With the college hockey leagues getting shuffled this past season, it will be the first time in years where the Twin Cities will not host the famous pre, post-season hockey gathering.

Though Wisconsin comes into the tourney knowing they’ll bring as many fans as usual to the site, teams like Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State are new to the mix.

It has players and coaches in both Minnesota and Wisconsin wondering what to expect inside the usually packed and rauckus the arena this weekend.

“We asked that question this morning to our staff if they’ve heard anything about the number of tickets that have been sold,” Mike Eaves, said, this past week. “We couldn’t find it, or I’ve not heard anything about that. So I’m not sure what to expect.

“Obviously, with Minnesota being there, that will help. We travel well. That will help. But I don’t know how the other schools travel yet. I think it’s something we’ll find out together.”

After what’s been a season of so many stories, long road trips, layoffs early in the season and climbing the ladder late in the year, Eaves said this tourney is typcally a GREAT way to spark his team heading into the NCAA tourney in a couple weeks.

“Without a doubt [this ramps us up]. When the weather warms up, kind of, and the season is done, there’s a little extra jump in your step,” Eaves said. “The purpose becomes more visible on a day-to-day basis. There’s a finite point now that we’re getting to and that really ramps up your emotional energy.”

Thursday, March 20, 2014
Game 1: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Penn State, 2 p.m. CT, BTN
Game 2: No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Michigan State, 7 p.m. CT, BTN
Friday, March 21, 2014
Game 3: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. Game 1 Winner, 2 p.m. CT, BTN
Game 4: No. 1 Minnesota vs. Game 2 Winner, 7 p.m. CT, BTN
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Game 5: Championship Game, 7 p.m. CT
All games to air live on BTN.

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Tags: Big Ten Hockey Michigan Hockey Minnesota Golden Gophers Hockey Ohio State Hockey Penn State Hockey Wisconsin Hockey Xcel Energy Center

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