The Wisconsin men's hockey team thought last weekend's series against then top-ranked Denver was huge, but tying and beating the Pioneers only increased the importance of this week's trip to Duluth. The Bulldogs (16-9-1 overall) lead the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Wisconsin (14-6-4 overall, 10-5-3 in the WCHA) rank second in national polls conducted by U.S. College Hockey Online and USA Today, which both solicit votes from coaches and members of the media. The Ratings Percentage Index and PairWise Rankings both have the Badgers at third, as does something called KRACH, which stands for (seriously) Ken's Rankings for American College Hockey.
The KRACH (developed by statistician Ken Butler) attempts to be the most statistically accurate measure of each team's ability. It's based on wins and losses, obviously, but also strength of schedule. Ken's system also factors in something called "logistic regression," which weeds out teams that compile a lot of wins against weak teams. (Trying to understand the particulars of KRACH vividly reminds me how much I hate math.)
Based on the current rankings, the number-three Badgers have a tough month ahead, with fifth-ranked Minnesota-Duluth up next and fourth-ranked St. Cloud State coming to the Kohl Center on Feb. 19-20.
But Wisconsin is poised to finish strong. The team has a pair of tested goaltenders in juniors Scott Gudmandson (7-2-4) and Brett Bennett (7-4), both of whom are giving up just 2.2 goals per game. On the offensive end, senior forward Michael Davies has registered multiple points (goals and/or assists) in nine games, including the last six straight.