Big Ten hockey has arrived, at least Minnesota has, as the Wisconsin men’s hockey team travels to take on the No. 1 Gophers in a border battle that will inaugurate the new conference for both teams.With the new conference and facing off against the top team in the nation setting the stage, the stakes heading into the Friday-Saturday series could not be higher for the Badgers (4-3-1, 0-0 Big Ten).Yet for University of Wisconsin, they are simply happy to be getting back on the ice.“We’re excited to get back playing. The fact that we’re going into Minnesota and they’re ranked where they are, our kids will be excited,” head coach Mike Eaves said in a press conference Monday. “It’s an opportunity to bang the drum a little bit and make some noise by going in there and playing well, see what we can do.”The Badgers will enter Mariucci Arena coming off a bye week, the team’s third week off in the last five weeks, having played just eight games to Minnesota’s 12 games played so far this season.It is a challenge to keep the veteran squad focused and working hard despite having such little game-time minutes, Eaves said the team has found ways to make practice interesting, incorporating new drills and new techniques, as well as simulating game-like scenarios.“It is a challenge. It’s been kind of a fun one. I think, what it does, it gets us outside of our normal box. We’ve been creative,” Eaves said. “I think we’ve learned some new techniques and training things and drills that have kept our guys’ interest piqued, but at the same time, trying to keep them as close to game ready as we can.”While the Badgers will be coming in well-rested, the Gophers head into the series after splitting a pair of games last weekend with Minnesota-Duluth. Following a decisive 6-1 victory in game one over the Bulldogs, the Gophers went on to drop the second game 6-2, crushing the team’s 10-game unbeaten streak at home after giving up three UMD goals in the opening period.Boasting the second-best offense in the nation, averaging more than four goal-per-game, Minnesota will be a challenge to contain for the Badger defense and goaltending pair of juniors Joel Rumpel and Landon Peterson. Junior Gopher forward Sam Warning leads the way on the attack with a team-high 19 points off five goals and 14 assists, putting him in third on the nation’s assists scoreboard. With goal scoring split across the lines for UM, Wisconsin will need to be firing on all cylinders to contain the explosive offense.Yet the meeting will be no easy task for Minnesota, as the rivalry never sees a dull match, as the Badgers boast a team full of depth and experience. While forward Nic Kerdiles saw his 18-game point streak dating back to last season snapped against Miami two weeks ago, the sophomore continues to be one of the most consistent Badgers on the ice with four goals and four assists on the year. Kerdiles sits tied with three other Badgers with eight points on the year, only to be topped by senior forward Michael Mersch with nine points.The last time the two teams faced off was at the Hockey City Classic hosted at Soldier Field in Chicago last season. After a 3-2 victory for Minnesota in game one at the Kohl Center, the Badgers scored three goals in three minutes and 19 seconds in the second period in the frigid outdoors to lead the team to a 3-2 win over a then-ranked No. 2 Gopher squad.