Ohio State senior defenseman Jincy Dunne (33) prepares to take a shot during the Ohio State-Bemidji State game on Jan.31. Ohio State won 7-2. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | For the Lantern

 Ohio State senior defenseman Jincy Dunne (33) prepares to take a shot during the Ohio State-Bemidji State game on Jan.31. Ohio State won 7-2. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Lantern Reporter

Ohio State women’s hockey begins postseason play against a familiar foe Friday.

The No. 5 Buckeyes (20-8-6, 13-6-5 WCHA) host the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament against Minnesota State (11-18-6, 4-16-4) this weekend, the third matchup of the season between the teams.

Minnesota State finished the regular second with the second-worst standing in the WCHA, but it boasts an impressive late-season win on its resume. The Mavericks bested then-No. 1 Wisconsin 3-1 on Feb. 8 and tied the Buckeyes twice in their first series meeting.

“The teams that have nothing to lose are extremely dangerous,” Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said. “We have to be mindful of their top players, as we know they can score, but we have to focus on their whole team dynamic because it was the whole unit that beat Wisconsin.”

After two ties in October, Ohio State topped Minnesota State at home Jan. 10 and 11 by a series total of 14-4. It was the Buckeyes’ first sweep against the Mavericks since October 2018.

Junior forward Emma Maltais, the conference’s No. 4 point scorer, had seven points in the series.

“The last time we played Mankato we had a lot of offensive success,” Muzerall said. “I told the team it won’t be so easy this time around. It’s playoffs, so everybody’s playing the pause and then reset.”

While the Mavericks are coming off a two-game losing streak, three Ohio State players were recognized with WCHA honors after two wins against St. Cloud State this past weekend.

Redshirt senior defenseman Jincy Dunne earned Defenseman of the Week honors, sophomore goaltender Andrea Braendli earned Goaltender of the Week after securing her eighth career shutout and freshman forward Brooke Bink was named Rookie of the Week after scoring two goals.

Freshman forward Kelsey King led the Mavericks to its season-highlight win against  Wisconsin, putting two assists on the board.

King and sophomore defenseman Anna Wilgren are the Mavericks’ top point scorers, and both registered assists against the Buckeyes. King assisted two of the Mavericks’ three goals in their win against Wisconsin. She and Wilgren combine for 45 points this season, becoming the most likely threat to the Buckeye defense.

In goal, Minnesota State sophomore Abigail Levy and freshman Calla Frank have split duties this season, with Levy starting 18 games and Frank starting 15.

“It’s challenging because they’re two very different goalies. One’s a little bigger, and one’s a little smaller. They have different weaknesses,” Ohio State sophomore defenseman Sophie Jaques said. “With any goalie, getting a lot of shots on them and making them move, they’ll struggle with. As long as we can do that, I think we’ll be fine against them.”

Ohio State is hosting and favored to win, but Minnesota State isn’t foreign to playing spoiler this season. 

The teams will try to qualify for the second round with a series beginning 6:07 p.m. Friday and continuing Saturday at 3:07 p.m. If needed, a third game will be scheduled for Sunday.