Wisconsin men’s hockey returns to national rankings

A series against Michigan Tech launched the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team into a stretch of more than two years outside the national rankings.

A series against the Huskies also brought the Badgers back.

Wisconsin was among the top 20 teams in the USCHO rankings on Monday for the first time since Oct. 4, 2021. The Badgers (5-1) were 14th as they prepared to open the Big Ten schedule Thursday and Friday at No. 1 Minnesota (3-1).

The Badgers swept a pair of games against Michigan Tech last weekend to secure their best record through six games in 19 years. Two years ago, however, a pair of home losses to the Huskies in a season-opening series took Wisconsin from 13th in the rankings to outside the top 20, and they didn’t return until Monday.

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That was 51 consecutive USCHO rankings without the Badgers. The longest stretch without Wisconsin was 62, from Oct. 20, 2014, until Jan. 23, 2017, after the team improved to 13-8-1 under first-year coach Tony Granato with a sweep of games against Ohio State, one in Columbus and one in New York.

While Granato’s Badgers needed 17 rankings to get into the top 20, it happened in four under Mike Hastings.

Wisconsin swept newcomer Augustana at home on the opening weekend and won in overtime at Bemidji State before being shut out by then-No. 7 North Dakota on Oct. 14. The Badgers responded by overcoming deficits in both games against Michigan Tech for road victories.

“I think we’ve done it some different ways,” Hastings said after Saturday’s 5-2 victory. “We’ve had different guys step up. It always starts with your goaltender.”

Kyle McClellan has provided early answers to preseason questions on the goaltending position with a .935 save percentage and a 1.49 goals-against average.

“He’s given us a chance every night we drop a puck,” Hastings said. “When you have that, I think you can play a little freer, you can play with a little confidence.”

A three-week road test ends with games against the Gophers, who split a series at North Dakota over the weekend. The meetings Thursday and Friday both start at 8 p.m. and will be shown on Big Ten Network.

The last time both teams were in the USCHO top 20 for a Border Battle meeting was the 2021 Big Ten championship game won by Minnesota in South Bend, Indiana.

The Badgers are 7-6 against a top-ranked Gophers team since the USCHO rankings started in 1997, including a 3-1 victory for a series split at the Kohl Center last February.

USCHO.com Division I men’s rankings, Oct. 23, 2023

Team (first-place votes) Record Points Last ranking
1. Minnesota (42) 3-1-0 989 1
2. Denver (6) 3-1-0 946 2
3. Boston College (1) 3-1-0 880 3
4. North Dakota 3-1-0 815 5
5. Quinnipiac 3-2-0 776 4
6. Michigan 3-2-1 722 7
7. Providence (1) 4-1-0 650 10
8. Michigan State 5-1-0 633 8
9. Boston University 2-2-0 586 6
10. Western Michigan 3-0-1 552 9
11. Minnesota Duluth 3-0-2 451 14
12. Cornell 0-0-0 413 11
13. Arizona State 4-0-0 299 18
14. Wisconsin 5-1-0 277 NR
15. Penn State 4-1-0 272 12
16. Ohio State 2-1-2 266 13
17. Harvard 0-0-0 238 15
18. Northeastern 2-0-0 202 16
19. Massachusetts 4-1-0 149 NR
20. Omaha 2-0-0 64 NR

Others receiving votes: New Hampshire 49, Colorado College 42, Holy Cross 38, Maine 34, Merrimack 34, UMass Lowell 34, Minnesota State 24, St. Cloud State 15, Michigan Tech 13, RIT 12, St. Thomas 11, Alaska 8, Notre Dame 4, Brown 1, Clarkson 1.

Meet the 13 former Wisconsin players on 2023-24 NHL opening day rosters

Cole Caufield, Montreal

Caufield, who won the Hobey Baker Award in 2020-21, his last of two seasons with the Badgers, is in his third full season in the NHL and with Montreal. The forward is starting an eight-year, $62.8 million contract.

Ty Emberson, San Jose

Ty Emberson

Emberson was claimed on waivers by the Sharks from the New York Rangers on Sept. 30 and made an NHL opening-day roster for the first time. The defenseman played for the Badgers from 2018 to 2021 and is on a one-year contract that pays $775,000 at the NHL level and $85,000 in the American Hockey League.

Trent Frederic, Boston

Frederic, a forward who played for the Badgers from 2016 to 2018, is starting his sixth pro season. He’s starting a two-year, $4.6 million contract with the Bruins.

Dylan Holloway, Edmonton

Holloway played 51 games with the Oilers last season but didn’t appear in the playoffs. The forward who played for the Badgers from 2019 to 2021 is entering the final season of his entry-level contract, which pays him $925,000 in the NHL and $80,000 in the AHL.

Luke Kunin, San Jose


Kunin, who played forward at Wisconsin from 2015 to 2017, was limited to 31 games for the Sharks last season because of a torn ACL. He’s in the second year of a two-year, $5.5 million contract with San Jose.

Jake McCabe, Toronto

McCabe is starting his first full season in Toronto after he was traded from Chicago on Feb. 27, 2023. The defenseman who played at Wisconsin from 2011 to 2014 is in the third year of a four-year, $16 million contract.

Ryan McDonagh, Nashville

Ryan McDonagh

McDonagh, a Badgers defenseman from 2007 to 2010, is starting his second season with the Predators after a trade from Tampa Bay. He’s in the fifth year of a seven-year, $47.25 million deal.

K’Andre Miller, New York Rangers

Miller signed a two-year, $7.744 million contract with the Rangers in July after his entry-level deal expired. He played defense for Wisconsin from 2018 to 2020 and is entering his fourth pro season.

Joe Pavelski, Dallas

Joe Pavelski

Pavelski, 39, avoided free agency last season when he signed a one-year extension with the Stars that has a $3.5 million cap hit. He can earn a $1 million bonus for playing in 10 games and another $1 million for reaching 20 games. The forward played for the Badgers from 2004 to 2006.

Justin Schultz, Seattle

Schultz is starting the final season of a two-year, $6 million contract with the Kraken. The defenseman who played at Wisconsin from 2009 to 2012 is entering his 12th pro season.

Brendan Smith, New Jersey

Smith is in the second and final year of a two-year, $2.2 million contract with the Devils, his fourth NHL team since joining the league in 2011-12. The defenseman played for the Badgers from 2007 to 2010.

Craig Smith, Dallas

Smith, a Madison native who played forward for the Badgers from 2009 to 2011, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Stars in July. That gave Dallas three former Badgers players, all of whom are from Wisconsin; Joe Pavelski (Plover) and Ryan Suter (Madison) are the others.

Ryan Suter, Dallas

Suter is starting his 20th pro season and 19th in the NHL after he played defense for the Badgers in the 2003-04 season. He’s in the third year of a four-year, $14.6 million deal with the Stars.

Originally Appeared Here

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