A showdown between two of the nations top goalies comes to OSU Ice Rink Friday and Saturday when No. 6 Ohio State hosts top-ranked Wisconsin in a two-game series.
The No. 1 Badgers (26-1-1, 17-0-1-1 in WCHA) come into the series against the Buckeyes (17-7-4, 10-4-4-3 in WCHA) ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense, but redshirt sophomore goalie Kristen Campbell remains the story of their impressive season.
Campbell boasts a .945 save percentage, allowing only 1.07 goals per game, and dealing out nine shutouts while playing in all 28 games this season. Ohio State redshirt junior Kassidy Sauve offers a similarly dominating stat line, with a .927 save percentage to go with her 2.17 goals against average in 26 contests this year.
The Buckeyes are coming off a losing series to Minnesota Duluth, and head coach Nadine Muzerall said she hasn’t had a problem motivating the team for the upcoming home series.
“You don’t have to motivate them too much,” Muzerall said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the country. We have to think of the positives of last weekend and be better.”
Muzerall added that Wisconsin poses possible difficulties for the Buckeyes going into the weekend series. She cited the Badgers’ stick-handling ability and positioning on defense as reasons why Wisconsin has found so much early-season success.
The head coach said she believes the home-ice advantage might help to give the Buckeyes an edge in this series against their challenging opponent.
“At home we have had a great record,” Muzerall said. “We’ve only lost one game at home. So, we are going to build off our strengths and attack them offensively this weekend.”
In early November, the Buckeyes went up traveled up to Madison, Wisconsin, to face the Badgers on the road and ended the series with a pair of losses that saw the Buckeyes get outscored 10-1 over the two games.
“I think we learned a lot from that weekend,” freshman forward Emma Maltais said. “We’ve developed a lot as a group, we’re hoping to put our best foot forward this weekend.”
Junior forward Erin Langermeier has helped Ohio State find some consistency on the defensive end, and that could prove to be the toughest challenge to the Buckeyes this time around.
“I think when it comes to this weekend, we just have to make it hard for them to play in our defensive zone,” Langermeier said. “So, when they get some offense we’ve got to really shut them down, quick transition and get into their zone.”
With the Badgers being the top team in the nation, Muzerall said her team must understand it won’t play perfect. It will make mistakes. But that does not mean the team should avoid striving to be perfect even when faced with the immense pressure.
“I think there is a little bit of pressure,” Maltais said. “But I think we have confidence coming out of playing well against Minnesota. I don’t know if we are expecting a perfect game, but I think for sure we need to tie down on our d-zone and offensive zone system play, the effort just has to be there from all of us.”
Ohio State will come into this game having struggled in its last matchup, scoring just twice overall in the series against Minnesota Duluth — once in each game — and allowing six goals in two games. Before heading to the ice to hope for a turnaround, Sauve said she is looking forward to the series.
“At the end of the day it’s a new week.” Suave said. “Now, we are facing a really good opponent and seeing how we get out of that rut, I think, will be huge for our team.”
Sauve said she is ready to face the offensive attack of the Badgers, adding she feasts off energy gained by making more saves.
“I like when a team shoots the puck a lot,” Sauve said. “And they like to do that. They outshoot most of their opponents. So, being ready and challenging a shooter, just being ready to go on every shot I get.”
The Buckeyes will lace up their skates to take the ice Friday at 6:07 p.m. and Saturday at 3:07 p.m.