With its biggest rival coming to town, the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team is getting big contributions from its best forwards.
That has the 17th-ranked Badgers encouraged for a stretch run that they hope will bring them one more weekend at the Kohl Center this season.
The top four forwards on UW's scoring chart are all averaging at least a point per game in the last five outings entering a series against No. 12 Minnesota at the Kohl Center on Friday and Saturday.
Ryan Wagner, Trent Frederic, Linus Weissbach and Seamus Malone all made a mark on last weekend's series split at Michigan.
"That might have been the best weekend for us offensively from our big guys," UW coach Tony Granato said. "That's certainly a great sign heading down the stretch here."
Frederic is in the middle of one of the best stretches of his collegiate career, with six goals and 11 points in his last seven games.
At Michigan, he recorded the Badgers' first back-to-back three-point games since November 2011, when Justin Schultz and Mark Zengerle both had big weekends against Mercyhurst.
The last consecutive three-point outings against a conference foe came in November 2010, by Zengerle at Minnesota.
"I guess it's starting to click a little bit more, skating a little bit better and starting to get some bounces," Frederic said.
Since returning from the World Junior Championship — which he ended with a four-goal performance in the bronze-medal game — in January, Frederic has carried himself differently, Granato said.
The first half of the season wasn't up to Frederic's standards, but Granato said the sophomore center has become better at handling the attention and checking he has received from opponents.
"Now he embraces that challenge in a different way," Granato said. "Instead of losing his focus and trying to get back at the players getting after him, he does it by putting the puck in the net and helping his team win.
"I really have liked what he's done with his game since he's come back from World Junior. I think there's been a great maturity with it."
He hasn't been the only one turning things up offensively in recent weeks.
Wagner, who leads the team with 29 points, has four goals and seven points in his last four games. Weissbach has two goals and five points in the last five contests.
Malone missed last Saturday's game but has three goals and six points in his last six appearances.
This weekend — their final home series of the regular season — they'll have to be as good or better against a Minnesota defense that has been stingier in its own end of the ice than either of the Badgers' last two opponents, Michigan and Penn State.
The atmospheres should match the stakes between teams that are both fighting for home ice in the first round of the Big Ten Conference playoffs. As of Monday, more than 10,000 tickets had been sold for Friday's game, with a season-high 14,500 sold for Saturday.
"This is the best weekend we have at the Kohl Center as it goes for hockey, so it should be exciting," Frederic said. "We've got senior weekend, Minnesota — it's going to be a good time."