BOSTON — Keegan Meuer says he doesn’t have a full grasp of the new math that could affect the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team this season.
NCAA tournament selection criteria now gives more weight to wins on the road and losses at home, a change endorsed by a majority of the 59 Division I coaches.
In addition, there is a bonus in the formula for wins on the road against teams in the top 20 of the power rankings.
Both alterations are front and center for the second-ranked Badgers, who play No. 7 Boston College tonight at Kelley Rink and No. 15 Boston University Saturday night at Agganis Arena as part of the inaugural Big Ten Conference/Hockey East Association Challenge.
Meuer, a senior center from Madison, said he and his UW teammates might not appreciate the recent tweaks to the Pairwise ranking formula used by the NCAA to seed and align the 16-team national tournament field, but they do grasp the significance of the weekend.
BC is a perennial power whose past two postseason meetings with the Badgers came in the 2006 and 2010 NCAA championship games.
BU won its most recent NCAA title in 2009 and is one of the most storied programs in the nation.
“What we do around here is we control what we can control and that’s winning games,” Meuer said. “When you win in those areas, in those hard rinks, it shows a lot about your team mentally and how good a team you are.”
Between now and the end of November the Badgers have some great opportunities to tap into the new selection criteria for quality wins on the road. They follow up this doubleheader with a non-league series at top-ranked Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 15 and 16 and open the Big Ten season with a series at third-ranked Minnesota on Nov. 29 and 30.
UW coach Mike Eaves had some reservations when the new criteria was rolled out in September — for one thing he thought the adoption process moved too quickly — but said this week that he’s gotten many of his initial questions answered.
“The one thing that came back is they went back and redid (the NCAA selection process) last year with this new process and it wouldn’t have made much difference,” he said. “Based on that, it is what it kind of is and we move forward.”
The driving force behind the changes was the belief that teams from smaller leagues were at a disadvantage because they generally play more non-conferences games on the road each season.
By contrast, UW, which is required to have 20 home games each year as part of the athletic department budget, has only four of its 14 non-league games on the road. Those four games — BC, BU and Miami — are potential gold mines for Pairwise validation.
“Our schedule, even under the new system, is OK,” Eaves said.
Coming off a season-opening non-conference series sweep of Northern Michigan at the Kohl Center, the Badgers will skate on small ice sheets for the first time and play in a city where their cumulative regular-season record is 6-11.
Meuer is the last UW remnant of that NCAA Frozen Four encounter with BC in 2010. A redshirt freshman that season, he remembers the pain of a 5-0 loss at Ford Field in Detroit. He remembers the tearful postgame dressing room. He remembers the opponent as a force to be reckoned with.
“We don’t see them too often,” Meuer said, referring to 21 meetings with the Eagles since 1970, “but we know when we see them it’s a big-time game and a big-time moment.”
The Badgers expect to experience a physical and emotional replay one night later against BU.
“We’re going out there to steal some ponies,” Meuer said, referring to an Old West ploy, “play big and show the country that the preseason ranking wasn’t just a preseason ranking. We belong in (the) top tier.”