The Ohio State women’s hockey team faces its first major road test as the team travels to Minnesota for a battle between two top dogs of the Women’s Hockey Collegiate Association Conference.
The No. 4 Buckeyes (5-1-0, 2-0-0-0 WCHA) will face off against the No. 3 Gophers (5-0-1, 3-0-1-0 WCHA) in an early matchup in conference play with two games this weekend.
Coming off two victories the previous weekend against Minnesota State, Ohio State will try and build off that momentum in the hopes that it will negate the home field advantage that the Gophers will have.
Head coach Nadine Muzerall said facing Minnesota on the road is nothing new to this team, and last season’s trip to Ridder Arena saw the Buckeyes win both games, one of which in a shootout.
“It’s nothing different. Every year Minnesota is ranked in the Top 8, and often times ranked even higher,” Muzerall said. “They’re three, we’re four right now. It’s going to be a couple of great games. They have the home crowd advantage playing in Ridder Arena, but it’s nothing this team hasn’t seen over the past two years.”
Senior forward Nicole Schammel leads the Golden Gophers with nine points on the season, tied for No. 3 in the NCAA. Minnesota also has three other players in the Top 20 in scoring: sophomore forward Grace Zumwinkle, junior defenseman Patti Marshall and senior forward Kelly Pannek.
The Minnesota offense is tied for No. 4 in the nation with 4.33 goals per game, and is tied for No. 6 with 1.50 goals allowed.
The Buckeyes will have plenty of key weapons to look to as they try to come away with wins this weekend, most notably freshman goaltender Andrea Braendli, who was named WCHA Player of the Week for her performance against Minnesota State the past week.
In only the second game of her Buckeye career, Braendli notched a shutout, stopping all 22 shots against her throughout Friday’s 4-0 win. On Saturday, she allowed one goal, but saved 33 shots and kept the Buckeyes in the game through overtime. In total, she ended the series with a .982 save percentage.
“The goal that was scored off of her was tipped off a skate,” Muzerall said. “So, when she is able to see the puck, she tracks the puck well. She’s very well positioned, and is relaxed, calm and poised.”
Another player that highlights for Ohio State is sophomore forward Emma Maltais. Maltais led the team last season in points scored and is starting this season doing the same thing. In just six games played, Maltais already has 10 points, tied for the lead in the NCAA.
“You need dynamic players like Emma in this league,” Muzerall said. “Teams like Wisconsin and Minnesota are filled with them. She’s a phenomenal athlete both on and off the ice and it shows leading the league in points last year. Her commitment to excellence is very impressive.”
The Buckeyes travel to Minnesota to play games at Ridder Arena at 8 p.m on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday.