View Gallery (2 Photos)The effects of conference expansion weren’t limited to college football this past summer.College hockey saw some programs move around as well, with Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha joining the WCHA conference.Tonight, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team (8-7-3, 4-6-2) will give Bemidji (5-8-1, 4-7-1) its own welcome to the conference at the Kohl Center.It will be a unique challenge for the Badgers, since the players have no history with the Beavers, who previously played in College Hockey America.“It’s definitely different because we have never played them before, I haven’t ever played them in my college career,” senior captain Sean Dolan said.“We are going to see a lot of stuff we haven’t seen before with this group,” sophomore forward Derek Lee added. “We’re not very familiar with each other but it’s going to be a fun weekend for both teams.”The Badgers are hoping this is a winning weekend.After splitting last weekend’s series with Alaska Anchorage (the loss came on a UAA goal with just eight seconds remaining) UW is looking to earn some much needed points in conference play to stay in the WCHA race.This weekend becomes even more important for the Badgers due to their schedule. After the matchup with BSU, Wisconsin will go three weeks without getting an opportunity to make up ground in the WCHA. UW has next weekend off before back-to-back weekends against non-conference opponents. Wisconsin takes on Massachusetts and Canisius after that bye week.With that in mind, the Badgers want to take advantage of this upcoming meeting with the Beavers.“It’s huge. We need these points especially now getting into the second half of the season,” Dolan said. “Each weekend is huge and to keep moving up in the WCHA standings we need all the points we can get.”Junior assistant captain Jake Gardiner couldn’t agree more.“We are 4-6-2 in our league and that’s just not going to cut it,” he said. “Hopefully we can get two wins here this weekend and get on a roll.”By all indications, wins for UW this weekend won’t come easy. Bemidji is coming off a series sweep over Nebraska-Omaha and the Beavers are known for a tireless work ethic.Just ask the Badgers, who have been watching tape on their opponent all week.“They work their butts off,” Gardiner said.“They are a good hardworking team,” Lee said. “They like to chip pucks out and work for every inch of that ice.”“They are hard workers,” Dolan said. “It’s going to be a challenge and we have to match that on our end.”So, it’s clear a hardworking team is coming to Madison and the Beavers are hoping that mentality translates into wins in their Kohl Center debut as WCHA members.But like every home series, the Badgers will look to protect their home ice and make a statement against the WCHA newcomers.“We definitely want to get the crowd into it right away and let them know that this is a tough place to play and somewhere that they are going to hate to come back to,” Dolan said.