Last Saturday, the then-No. 1-ranked University of Denver hockey team was greeted by the first Kohl Center sellout of the season, losing 4-3 at Wisconsin before a relatively good-natured gathering of 15,237.
The Badgers' lively student section undoubtedly made it a difficult place to play for the Pioneers. But the atmosphere in Madison will be considered tame compared with the expected antics that will unfold this weekend against North Dakota in Grand Forks.
The Pioneers, who fell to No. 3 in the media polls after failing to win a weekend game for the first time this season, will face the always-willing-to-fight Fighting Sioux, who are ranked fourth.
"I wouldn't say we have to make up for it, but they're big games as far as seeing what we're made of," DU senior center Tyler Ruegsegger said. "Having a tough weekend (at Wisconsin) and then going to North Dakota, where there will be an even more hostile arena, is a big challenge."
DU captain Rhett Rakh-shani is confident the unwanted baggage left from the Wisconsin series won't be brought to North Dakota. The Pioneers played well only in stretches against Wisconsin.
"They're all important from here on out, and this weekend is just as important as next weekend, and so on and so forth," Rakhshani said. "It doesn't matter who you're playing, when you're playing, what the standings are, what you're ranked, what they're ranked. You want to play the same. So we're going to want to bring forth our best game, no matter who we're playing, and that will be the same for North Dakota."
Six teams, six big games.
The rugged Western Collegiate Hockey Association will show off its star power this weekend, with its six nationally ranked teams involved in league showdowns.
In addition to the DU-North Dakota series, league-leading Minnesota-Duluth hosts Wisconsin and St. Cloud State visits Colorado College.
Based on the PairWise Rankings, all six WCHA teams are in position to qualify for the 16-team NCAA Tournament.
"Every weekend is going to be a battle," Rakhshani said of the race for the MacNaughton Cup as regular-season WCHA champion. "It's up for grabs and whoever wants it more is going to take it."