The final battle of the regular season for Ohio State women’s hockey will take place against the conference’s worst team.
No. 5 Ohio State (18-8-6, 11-6-5 WCHA) hosts St. Cloud State (6-21-4, 2-19-1) this weekend for the last regular season series before the WCHA Tournament begins.
The Buckeyes have moved up three spots in the national poll since they met the Huskies Oct. 4 and 5, but Ohio State isn’t getting caught up in metrics.
“We’re trying not to look at the numbers too much,” senior forward Olivia Soares said. “Just taking care of our business and focusing on the little things one game at a time.”
In the Oct. 4 matchup, Ohio State put up 38 shots on St. Cloud State senior goaltender Janine Alder, who saved 33 Buckeye attempts. Alder was on the Switzerland bronze medal-winning Olympic team in 2014, but has appeared in just three games since the first matchup with the Buckeyes.
Ohio State swept the Huskies by scores of 5-2 and 6-2.
Ohio State junior forward Emma Maltais put up six points with four goals and two assists, while junior forward Tatum Skaggs put away two goals and two assists.
While the Buckeyes haven’t lost to St. Cloud State in 11 straight meetings — holding a six-game win streak against the Huskies that dates back to a tie Dec. 2, 2017 — that doesn’t mean St. Cloud State isn’t capable of pulling off an unexpected victory.
This past Saturday, St. Cloud State upset Bemidji State in a shutout win 1-0. It was its first win in nearly a month.
“We talked about not taking any team for granted in our league,” Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said. “As we know, St. Cloud has phenomenal goaltending and they had a big upset last weekend, so you just never know.”
With this series, the Buckeyes will return to home ice after a two-week hiatus.
Ohio State sophomore goaltender Andrea Braendli is coming off a series against No. 2 Wisconsin in which she set the new WCHA record with 74 total saves. The Buckeyes won 3-1 this past Friday but dropped a shootout following a tie in the second game.
In light of the opening game’s upset, the Buckeyes worked their way back to No. 5 in the national standings, and sophomore forward Gabby Rosenthal and Braendli’s on-ice efforts were recognized with WCHA Player of the Week honors.
“You have to keep the momentum from the weekend and keep pushing,” Muzerall said. “We have the No. 1 toughest schedule in the country, playing 12 times against teams that are in the top seven or eight, which is also a reason why our conference is so strong — winning 17 of the last 20 national championships.”
Ohio State’s quest for a national championship continues with a 6:07 p.m. puck drop against St. Cloud State Friday, and a 3:07 p.m. start Saturday.