Coming off back to back victories to open the season, the Ohio State women’s hockey team is set for a matchup with one of the top teams in the country.
OSU (2-0) is scheduled to take on No. 2 Wisconsin (4-0) in a two-game series over the weekend.
The Buckeyes head into the weekend with the momentum of two home-ice wins against New Hampshire. They swept the Wildcats with a scores of 1-0 and 4-3 last weekend.
Coach Nate Handrahan said he hopes the excitement of playing on the road will transfer to high energy on the ice.
“Heading into Wisconsin we know they’re always a tough opponent, we know that they are a pretty solid team this year,” Handrahan said. “Anytime you go on the road and play in a Big Ten environment, I think your team gets excited, you get jacked up to play and Wisconsin isn’t an exception.”
Freshman goalie Kassidy Sauve was credited with 46 saves in last weekend’s series. This week, she could be put to the test if she starts in her first conference game against the Badgers’ offense.
Wisconsin’s offense has started the season strong, averaging 5.25 goals per contest. Handrahan said he isn’t concerned, and added that he believes his players are ready to compete at any level.
“I think we always prepare for the very best and the most elite in the country and I think you get tested with that every night in the (Western Collegiate Hockey Association),” Handrahan said. “Our basic mantra with the goaltenders are, ‘stop the ones you’re supposed to and a few you shouldn’t,’ and that gives us a chance to make a play.”
Senior defenseman Sara Schmitt said OSU’s offense is one of its best areas of play.
“Keeping the puck low is one of our strong suits,” she said. “We have fast forwards who can posses the puck.”
Sophomore Claudia Kepler, one of the team’s forwards, was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday.
“I didn’t expect it at all. Yeah, it’s awesome, but it’s more of a team award if anything because I just scored both goals from the top of the crease and my teammates are the ones that got the puck to the net for me,” Kepler said.
Kepler is looking for her team to “build momentum off of their positive plays,” she said. Both Kepler and Schmitt said they believe their depth all the way through the lineup will pose a threat for Wisconsin. Handrahan said he couldn’t agree more.
“We have a lot of players that can step up and make plays. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a team,” Handrahan said. “Whoever is tasked with making a play, you’re expected to make a play. There is no one go-to player. It’s everybody pulling to help us reach success.”
OSU is scheduled to play at LaBahn Arena this weekend. Faceoff on Friday is set for 8:07 p.m., while Sunday the puck is set to drop at 2:07 p.m.