A battle between top five teams will ensue as No. 3 Ohio State women’s hockey will play No. 2 Minnesota Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Ohio State Ice Rink.
The Gophers (19-6-1) are coming off a series sweep against Wisconsin, resulting in the Badgers losing their No. 1 ranking. The Gophers jumped up to No. 2 in the rankings, knocking the Buckeyes (18-4-0) down one rank.
Head coach Nadine Muzerall said the change in the rankings was disappointing, but it is not the Buckeyes’ focus heading into this series.
“We can’t control that, so we don’t try to get our knickers in a knot too much about that,” Muzerall said.
Ohio State graduate forward Liz Schepers said the Buckeyes have a chance this series to show they are contenders.
“We definitely feel like we deserve to be in that top-spot conversation and that’s how we want to compete,” Schepers said. “At the end of the day, we love to take that underdog role and punch up. We definitely have an opportunity to do that this weekend.”
Two Gophers were recognized by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this week. Forwards senior Taylor Heise and freshman Ella Huber were named WCHA Forward of the Week and WCHA Rookie of the Week, respectively.
Muzerall said the Gophers have skilled forwards, and Ohio State’s defenders need to be aware of that during the series.
“They do have very gifted and talented forwards that have a lot of individual skill,” Muzerall said. “They are a blue line-in type team, so if they get opportunities, you’ve got to be very careful and have good sound defense and make sure that you are paying attention.”
Heise currently is first in the nation with 43 points and second in the nation with 17 goals.
Ohio State has won five consecutive games against Minnesota, including a series-sweep Oct. 1-2, 2021 in Gopher territory.
Ohio State sophomore forward Jenna Buglioni said the Gophers are a skilled team, and the Buckeyes need to tap into their forceful style of play.
“We need to play physical and get on them right away, don’t give them any chance to breathe,” Buglioni said. “Just playing our hard Buckeye hockey, one-shift-warrior type of style.”
Muzerall said it is key for the Buckeyes to play with their aggressive style on the ice against the Gophers.
“They don’t really like being touched and being physical, and we’ve got to take away their time and space because they’re a very good team,” Muzerall said.
Ohio State senior defender Sophie Jaques said the points on the line in this Big Ten matchup are crucial, and the Buckeyes need to concentrate on what they do best.
“I think just playing our game and focusing on what we’re good at is what is going to get us the wins,” Jaques said. “I think the points next weekend are huge for both conference play and nationally.”
The series will be available on Big Ten Plus.