Coming off a split series against No. 1 Wisconsin, the No. 5 Ohio State women’s hockey team (15-7, 9-5 WCHA) travels to Minnesota Duluth (8-10-2, 5-7-2 WCHA) this weekend, where the Bulldogs will look to avoid a season sweep.
The Buckeyes face off against a Minnesota Duluth team that they previously defeated 3-1 and 4-1 at home Nov. 16–17.
Despite the Buckeyes’ prior success against the Bulldogs and an upcoming matchup with No. 2 Minnesota, Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said her team cannot afford to look past Minnesota Duluth.
“The second you don’t respect your opponent, you get yourself in a lot of trouble,” Muzerall said. “When we did win, they weren’t easy wins.”
The Bulldogs have dropped only one game at home on the season, which matches up favorably against an Ohio State team that is .500 on the road, despite being 10-2 at home.
Muzerall said she expects a tougher matchup in the Bulldogs’ backyard.
“It’s a tough place to play,” she said. “We have a young team and we try to remind them that these games all matter. Now we’re in a fight to win all these games on the road.”
One of Muzerall’s young stars is sophomore forward Emma Maltais, who has 11 more points than any other Buckeye this season. She said despite the Bulldogs’ losing record, they aren’t to be taken lightly.
“We know Duluth’s a really good team,” Maltais said. “We like to take every weekend the same.”
Ohio State dominated the Bulldogs offensively in its last series, with a shot discrepancy of 75-50 and a hat trick in the second game by sophomore forward Tatum Skaggs.
Muzerall said a high volume of shots is key to getting pucks past Minnesota Duluth’s Olympic gold medal-winning redshirt junior goalie, Maddie Rooney.
“They’ve got a gold medalist starting goalie and you know you’re going to have to get a lot of shots on net,” Muzerall said. “Our girls are going to go in with the confidence that we put six or seven past her last time we played them.”
The Buckeyes ascended two spots in the national rankings after upsetting a top-ranked Wisconsin team Friday that had won 11 straight.
Though the Badgers avenged the loss the next day with a 5-2 dismantling of the Buckeyes, Maltais said team intensity is at a season high.
“Playing Wisconsin is always exciting,” Maltais said. “I think it’s about continuing that hype towards this weekend. Muzzy’s trying to drill it into us that these games are so crucial for where we end up in the season.”
The Bulldogs and Buckeyes shared the No. 7 ranking when they previously met on the ice, but a five-game losing skid that saw Minnesota Duluth go winless in November knocked the Bulldogs out of the national poll.
After a roller coaster season that has seen them go from preseason No. 9 to a record of 2-9 on the road, Minnesota Duluth has won two of its past three games, with wins against Minnesota State and Bemidji State.
The Bulldogs will try and make it four out of five with a revenge win against the WCHA rival Buckeyes this weekend.
The puck drops in Duluth, Minnesota, at 8:07 p.m. on Friday, and again at 5:07 p.m. Saturday.