The Ohio State women’s hockey team tries to bring the same energy to every game, but there’s no denying that there’s a little extra anticipation in the air this week.
The big, bad Badgers are coming to town.
No. 1 Wisconsin (4-0, 0-0 WCHA), who ended Ohio State’s 2018-19 season en route to winning its fifth national title in 14 years, will face off against the No. 8 Buckeyes (4-0, 2-0) this weekend in Columbus.
“We’re excited. It’s always fun to host Wisconsin at home. We all rally around that,” junior forward Emma Maltais said. “We’re going to have a lot of energy this weekend and hopefully get a couple wins.”
Ohio State will have their work cut out for them. This past weekend Wisconsin shutout Penn State in a sweep, with 7-0 and 3-0 victories. Junior forward Daryl Watts led the charge for the Badgers scoring three goals and adding four assists.
The Buckeyes will have to keep their eye on Watts, who is currently on a hot streak. She has scored goals in all four games so far, and her 11 points are No. 1 in the nation.
This past year, the Buckeyes and Badgers split their first series, and tied both games in their second meeting of the year. Then, Wisconsin ended Ohio State’s chance at a second straight Frozen Four appearance with a 3-2 win in the WCHA Final Faceoff.
The Buckeyes are coming off wins this past weekend against St. Cloud State, who they beat 5-2 Friday and 6-2 Saturday. Ohio State hopes to bring that same firepower against Wisconsin this weekend.
“We were successful in putting the puck in the net this weekend and I think that brought some confidence to a lot of the girls,” Maltais said. “Now we have to bring the D-zone side of it, and the O-zone, and hopefully bring it all together for this series.”
Maltais was named WCHA Forward of the Week after her performance against St. Cloud State, which included a four-goal game. A Buckeyes player hasn’t done that since Hokey Langan in 2010.
Freshman forward Brooke Bink also picked up WCHA honors this week, being named Rookie of the Week after scoring her first career goal Saturday. She said she’s been looking forward to playing Wisconsin for a long time.
“I’ve been watching the WCHA and Wisconsin play for years now –– ever since I committed,” Bink said. “I’ve been waiting three years to play this game and I’m really excited to hit the ice with Wisconsin.”
The Buckeyes know they are facing a tough opponent, but Maltais said the Badgers have yet to face a team as aggressive as them.
“We just need to bring what we’re best at and own what we are,” Maltais said. “Speed and tenacity, I think that’s how we always get the Badgers.”
The puck drops between the conference rivals at 6:07 p.m. Friday at the Ohio State Ice Rink, and the second game begins at 3:07 p.m. Saturday.