BEN CLASSON/Herald photoThe Badgers do things last-minute. They exchanged ?SecretSanta? gifts following practice Wednesday ? just days shy of a month after theChristmas holiday itself. They?ve won or tied five games this year whentrailing heading into the third period. And they?ve put together a nice stretchof games in WCHA play ? more than two months after the conference slate began.Of course, that?s just how they roll, says forward KyleTurris.?I think it just shows the team character that we have. Itshows that we?re not going to give up,? Turris said. ?The game?s never over,and we?re going to compete until the final buzzer sounds.?While head coach Mike Eaves agrees it?s better late thannever, he also believes that isn?t always the best approach.Despite the team?s uncanny ability to come from behind,Eaves understands that the formula for winning doesn?t have to live up to theteam?s ?never say die? mantra. Instead, it?s about getting off to fast starts.?All things taken equally, I?d rather have and establish thelead early in the game,? Eaves said.At 10-10-4 (6-8-2 WCHA), the Wisconsin men?s hockey team iscomfortably saddled right in the thick of the conference standings. But theramifications of leveling with WCHA-leading Colorado College hold much to bedesired.Like Oliver Twist, the Badgers are hungry for more; theywant to be among the league?s elite.If years past held any sway, Wisconsin would have gottenthat chance this weekend against Minnesota. Alas, the Gophers are having anuncharacteristically down season (12-10-4) ? they were predicted to finishsecond in the standings ? and are, in fact, tied with the Badgers.Still, this first of two meetings between the two teams willgive the Badgers a chance to slingshot themselves up in the WCHA standings andPairwise rankings as the season heads to a close. Given Minnesota?s tendency togive up leads in the third period ? the Gophers have allowed 24 third periodgoals in WCHA play while scoring just seven times ? Wisconsin may also get afew more opportunities to put its come-from-behind nature to the test.?It?s a big opportunity for us; we can?t let it slip away,?UW forward Ben Street said.?Because of the position we?re in, every weekend representssomething significant,? Eaves added. ?It?s almost like every game will becomethe most important game of the season because we don?t have a lot of wiggleroom, and we have to get points here in order to be where we want to be.?Despite being riddled with inconsistencies throughout, bothWisconsin and Minnesota are playing well of late. Minnesota is currently ridinga three-game unbeaten streak and has just one loss during the month of January,going 3-1-2 over that time.Meanwhile, the Badgers, thanks to a two-goal effort bysophomore Michael Davies against Alaska-Anchorage last Saturday, capped a 2-1-1road stretch ? their first road win this season ? and are riding a three gameunbeaten streak of their own.?You can certainly be encouraged by the way that we playedand the points that we got in two tough environments,? Eaves said.However, to Eaves, nothing signifies that his team is comingtogether more than its performance over the past two weekends.?The best team-building experience you can have is going onthe road and winning together,? he said. ?You can climb ropes courses or campout together, but winning on the road together brings you as close together asanything that you can do.?What?s more, the power play finally paid off with theBadgers scoring three times in six opportunities after a 15-game stretch inwhich the main advantage netted a mere three goals in 59 chances.?We made a couple of adjustments and got a little morefreedom in what we can do, and I think that?s helped us a lot,? Street said.But the team doesn?t want to get too comfortable. Turris isapproaching the series with the mentality that Wisconsin lost its last timeout.?We don?t want to overdo ourselves so that we?re makingstupid plays,? he said. ?We need to play within our system.?Contrary to the offensive-minded hockey both teams havegrown accustomed to playing ? Wisconsin this year and Minnesota historically ?the games between these two border rivals have been low scoring. In their fivecontests last year UW and Minnesota combined for a mere 17 goals ? meaning thisseries could come down to goaltending.Shane Connelly has been rocky at times in the net forWisconsin but nothing compared to Minnesota?s opening day starter Jeff Frazeewho, after allowing nearly three goals per game, was benched in favor offreshman Alex Kangas.In order for Wisconsin to continue its recent success, Eavesstressed the importance of putting pressure on the young goalie.?Like all young goaltenders it?s aboutrebounds. It?s about getting used to the pace of the game,? he said. ?So one ofour tasks will be to get a lot of pucks on this young man and see how hehandles them.?