There might not be a better first-round match-up in the entire NCAA hockey tournament quite like Wisconsin versus North Dakota.
Two teams fresh out of the WCHA, 44 years for UW, and continually atop their respective games, will battle in Cincinnati for the right to move forward in the 16-team NCAA Championships.
The Wisconsin Badgers earned one of the four regional No. 1 seeds (24-10-2, 13-6-1-0 Big Ten) and returns to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
Wisconsin was an automatic bid in the 2012-13 season after winning the WCHA Final Five. The fell to eventual National Championship runner-up, UMass Lowell in the opening round.
Overall, it is the 25th time in school history Wisconsin will take part in the NCAA postseason.
Set to battle with fourth-seeded North Dakota (23-13-3, 15-9-0 NCHC) in the Midwest regional, the teams will skate Friday at 7 p.m. CT at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
The winner will meet either No. 2 Ferris State (28-10-3, 20-6-2 WCHA) or No. 3 Colgate (20-13-5, 13-6-3 WCHA).
Here’s a few series notes to get you ready for one of the most storied match-ups in college hockey.
UW and the Fighting Sioux will be playing for the 164th time this Friday, making it the fourth-most played rivalry in Wisconsin history. They’ve only ever met twice in postseason play.
UW fell 5-2 to UND in the 1982 NCAA Championship Game played in Providence, R.I. The most recent playoff matchup came in 2008 when North Dakota outlasted Bucky 3-2 in a Kohl Center OT thriller.
UW is 14-13-1 against North Dakota with UW’s Mike Eaves and UND’s Dave Hakstol behind the bench.
The teams will meet for just the third time without both teams a member of the WCHA. Only the first two meetings between the two schools on Dec. 13-14, 1968, came when both schools were not part of the WCHA as Wisconsin joined the league for the following season.
Their last meeting was a 4-1 win for the Fighting Sioux who back in February 2013 skated out to a 4-0 lead with a pair of goals in the first and second periods, before Mark Zengerle scored for the Badgers midway through the third period.
Landon Peterson made 25 saves in the game. The contest followed a 1-1 overtime tie the night before, with Michael Mersch scoring the goal for UW. Peterson was in goal the first game, making 21 saves.
Wisconsin comes into the tourney as one if the most battle-tested teams in the country. With nine seniors and seven juniors on this year’s roster, it’s the most upper class men the Badgers have had since the 2009–10 NCAA Frozen Four team had 16.
Wisconsin claims it’s stake as having the highest scoring senior class in the nation (4.83 points per game). UW’s total of 174 points on 63 goals and 111 assists ranks second behind New Hampshire’s 180 points.
The class is the fourth best scoring class of any in the nation – behind the junior class of Mercyhurst (5.63) and Ohio State (5.03 points per game) and the St. Cloud State sophomore class (5.03).
In net for UW this Friday will be one of the nations best in Junior goaltender Joel Rumpel.
After starting the 2013-14 season with a nagging injury, Rumpel has responded with quite possibly his best year in goal. He’s a Hobey Baker Memorial Award top-10 finalist and ranks second in the nation with a .796 winning percentage (21-5-1).
His 2.03 goals-against average is eighth best in the Nation and he also ranks seventh best with a .930 save percentage. His 21 single-season victories ranks as the ninth best season in school history.
Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves comes into the 2014 tournament with credentials to impress just about anyone.
Wisconsin is 9-5-0 overall in the NCAA tournament under Eaves, who came into this season, his 11th at UW, with four regional final four appearances.
The Badgers are 37-21-2 in the NCAA tournament all-time in its 24 official previous appearances. UW owns 11 top-four NCAA finishes, including six NCAA titles. (1973, ’77, ’81, ’83, ’90 and 2006).
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