After bye weeks for the Ohio State women’s hockey team and Minnesota Duluth this past weekend, both teams are likely anxious to get back on the ice.
The No. 7 Buckeyes (7-3-2, 5-3-2 WCHA) will host the No. 9 Bulldogs (7-3-0, 4-3-0) in Columbus, Ohio, for games Friday and Saturday.
“We definitely used the week to rest and recover, but also, it was a week to get better, faster, stronger,” sophomore forward Paetyn Levis said. “We worked a lot on things that we need to tighten up, and I think we improved a lot over the week.”
Not all the Buckeye players had bye weeks, though. Junior forward Emma Maltais and sophomore goaltender Andrea Braendli joined their country’s national teams over the weekend, playing for Canada and Switzerland, respectively.
The entire Ohio State team made the drive to Pittsburgh to support their teammate and the Canadian women’s national team, which squared off against the United States.
“The whole team went. They made signs, they dressed up and Americans were cheering for Canada. It was fantastic,” Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said. “What was the best part was everybody had so much pride and just pure excitement and happiness for her.”
It was a big moment for Maltais, and it meant a lot to see all of her teammates show up to cheer her on.
“Just seeing them there, I got super emotional,” Maltais said. “It was one of the best moments in my hockey career.”
Minnesota Duluth also had players in Pittsburgh, but for the U.S. — senior forward Sydney Brodt and senior goaltender Maddie Rooney.
Rooney has goaltended for the U.S. national team since 2017, helping it win an Olympic gold medal against Canada in 2018. This season, she has helped the Bulldogs allow just 11 goals this season, tied with Wisconsin for fewest in the conference.
“Duluth has a really strong roster, and they’ve got some good defense, and the ability to score and a gold-medalist goalie,” Muzerall said. “But I think we’ve found ways to score on her, and we’re going to continue to focus on their weaknesses and expose them this weekend.”
This past season, the Buckeyes defeated the Bulldogs at home, winning 3-1 and 4-1, but were swept by them on the road, losing 5-2 and 6-3.
Minnesota Duluth has been a tough opponent for the Buckeyes. Over the past five seasons, the Buckeyes’ record against the Bulldogs stands at 5-14-1.
In the Buckeyes’ most recent series, they beat Bemidji State in both games with two game-winning goals by junior forward Liz Schepers. She now leads the team with nine goals, four of which were game-winners.
The Bulldogs’ previous matchup saw them sweep St. Cloud State with wins of 3-2 and 6-0. Minnesota Duluth sophomore forward Gabbie Hughes leads her team in points with 14 and goals with eight.
The puck drops between the Buckeyes and Bulldogs at 6:07 p.m. Friday and 3:07 p.m. Saturday in Columbus.