Junior Jordy Murray and the Badgers get their first taste of WCHA action this weekend at Magness Arena against No. 11 Denver.[/media-credit]Last time the teams met, it was a battle of WCHA powerhouses, chock full of veteran talent, a fight to see whose national title dreams seemed more realistic.This time around, it might simply be a case of which team did a better job of reloading.The rosters look a little different this season as No. 15 Wisconsin heads to the Rockies to take on No. 11 Denver. The Badgers lost 12 players from last year’s title game squad, including four early departures. The Pioneers are reeling after losing WCHA player of the year and Badger-beater Marc Cheverie in goal, as well as top line forwards Rhett Rakhshani, Joe Colberne and Tyler Ruegsegger, and top defenseman Patrick Wiercioch.Wisconsin has been encouraged by the play of some of its rookies, including winger Mark Zengerle, who is tied for the team lead in points with seven (1-6-7). Denver hasn’t seen immediate results from all its freshmen, but owns the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in college hockey. That class includes the guy who tied Zengerle for the BCHL scoring title last year, Beau Bennett.Personnel losses aside, there’s not a lot else in common between these teams aside from pedigrees. Denver sits at just 1-2-1 after a beatdown by reigning national champs Boston College last weekend, in 6-2 and 3-0 games. The Badgers are 3-1 after a sweep of hapless Alabama-Huntsville and a 6-0 win over Holy Cross in their opening weekend.Despite the easy schedule to begin the season, head coach Mike Eaves isn’t worried about his team.“We’ve said this before, the schedule is what it is. Last year, we started right away with Colorado College, and it was either a good way to start – it turned out okay,” he said. “This way, because we have a younger team, maybe we’ve got a little action under our belt, maybe that will serve us better before jumping in.”The other difference comes in goal. The Pioneers lost one of the nation’s best goaltenders in Cheverie and are relying on sophomore Adam Murray and freshman Sam Brittain to man the net. According to the Denver Post, Murray will miss the series with a groin injury, leaving Brittain as the lone goaltender.Wisconsin returns two seniors who started significant minutes last season in Scott Gudmandson and Brett Bennett. Gudmandson took over the starting job last spring, but the two have returned to a competitive rotation this season.Neither have had a whole lot to do yet this year.Each goaltender has a shutout, and UW has 21 goals so far on the season, 11 of them coming on the power play. A big part of all the scoring has been the contributions of UW’s top line, featuring junior Jordy Murray, sophomore Craig Smith and Zengerle. All three have at least six points on the season and Murray leads the team with four goals.It could be seen as a gamble that Eaves put his top two returning forwards on the same line with unproven players behind them. So far though, it has paid off, despite any added pressure the line might feel.“To a certain extent. I think that’s one thing we’re counting on, counted on to do, put pucks in the net,” Zengerle said. “At the same time you can’t overdo it on yourself, put too much on yourself.”The three are also the forwards on UW’s first-unit power play, helping to develop their chemistry early in the season.“We get in a flow with each other, you don’t have to sit out for a while, you’re on the power play with them, then you go right out on five-on-five,” Murray said. “I’m actually killing (penalties) with Smitty too, so I’m always with him, it’s good.”The ability of the Badgers to convert on the power play is an edge that could serve UW well on the road against a tough opponent. Wisconsin’s top five point-scorers so far are the five members of its top power play unit. Defenseman Justin Schultz is tied for points with Smith and Zengerle with seven, and he, along with fellow blueliner Jake Gardiner, have benefited from Wisconsin’s production with the man-advantage.“The power play’s been very productive,” Eaves said. “What the power play does is really reveal the offensive skills that these young people have, their ability to see the play and the skills to make it work.”While DU is just 1-for-21 with the man advantage this season, the Pioneers have been especially tough when down a man. Denver has successfully killed 18 of 19 penalties this season, a 94.7 percent clip that’s good for fifth in the nation.That penalty kill will help challenge the Badgers in their first true test of the season. Some years it could be a daunting task to take a young team into Magness Arena, so maybe UW lucked out that DU is in the same boat. Either way, Eaves isn’t overlooking any opponent.“The WCHA is such a league, it doesn’t matter if it’s Denver, Mankato, Alaska, you’re going to get a war right away,” he said.