Hockey Previews: Movin' on Up?

By Aubrey Nelson on January 24, 2014 at 1:00p
15 Comments
Buckeyes are going badger hunting

Both the men's and women's hockey teams have big opportunities to move up their respective conference standings. The men take on No. 9 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center tonight at 9pm (on BTN) and tomorrow at 8pm. The ladies host the Minnesota State Mavericks and have planned some fun promotions for fans who are headed out to the Ice Rink. Let's take a look at the Buckeyes' opponents this week.

Men

The 11-8-1 Buckeyes are in Wisconsin this week to take on the No. 9 Badgers. Wisconsin, with 16 upperclassmen on their roster, is a veteran squad that came into the season fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance. It’s no surprise that they were the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten.

Wisconsin has been very difficult to beat on the big ice of the Kohl Center this season. They’ve played ten consecutive games at home, going 9-1-0 over that stretch and outscoring their opponents 41-19. Coming off the midseason break they had a couple rough outings against Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska-Anchoarge, but the Badgers seemed to have a firm grip on their game once again when they swept Michigan two weeks ago.

Sr. Michael Mersch leads both Wisconsin and the Big Ten in scoring (14-10--24, 6-4--10 in B1G). He’s joined at the top of the Badgers’ stat sheet by fellow seniors Mark Zengerle (2-19--21) and Tyler Barnes (9-9--18). Jefferson Dahl has been one of the team’s hottest player since the break, racking up two goals and eight assists in the last six games.

Barnes has also been on a roll with four goals and two assists in his last six outings. He also has a couple of the Big Ten’s slickest tallies this season. Scoring backwards between-the-legs goals against Penn State and Colorado College back in December. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on this week.

Another dangerous player to watch is Jr. goaltender Joel Rumpel. He’s 10-1-0 this season and ranks among the nation’s best with a 1.85 GAA and .932 SV%. There isn’t much drop off between his overall stats and his conference stats (2.20 GAA, .927 SV%) either. Fortunately, the Buckeyes won’t have to worry about Nic Kerdiles. He’s still sidelined with a separated shoulder. Wisconsin will get a personnel boost, though, (per Andy Baggot) with the return of senior forward Sean Little.

Roughly a third of the way through their conference schedule, Ohio State is 1-4-1. They’ve pretty much all been tough, closely contested games and this series shouldn’t be any different. The Buckeyes and Badgers are tied for the nation’s fourth most productive offense. Each team scores an average of 3.55 goals per game. They’re very close in the defensive stat column as well. Ohio State surrenders 2.80 goals per game to Wisconsin’s 2.70.

“It’s going to be tight every game, and it’s going to come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes… You’ve got to take care of the little things because they could end up being the difference in a game.” Steve Rohlik on the balance of competition in the Big Ten

One area in which the Buckeyes have a decided advantage is the power play. OSU has converted 22.2% of their chances this season and boasts an even more impressive 35.0% mark in Big Ten games. Wisconsin’s power play, meanwhile, is operating at 15.4% overall and just 5.0% in conference play.

Tonight’s game is the second half of BTN’s Frozen Friday doubleheader. The first half will be Michigan-Michigan State: Part II. The Wolverines edged their hated rivals last night 2-1. Should be an exciting evening of hockey. I’ll be on the Twitter tonight if you need to talk/exult/kvetch. There isn’t any local television broadcast of Saturday’s game, but you can watch online with BTN2Go and listen via 1460AM. Links for following along can be found in OSU's series preview.

 

 

More pregame linky goodness…

  • Max McCormick and Tyler Lundey spoke with the media earlier this week. You can see those interviews here.
  • Ray Stein of the Dispatch talked with Travis Statchuk. Statchuk is not impressed with the polar vortex.
  • Grant Miller focused on “the little things” this week, about how they were crucial to Ohio State hitting their stride in Big Ten play and how they’ll be key for a Buckeye victory in Wisconsin.
  • Missed this one on Tuesday: Justin Boggs took a good, long look at the Buckeyes’ great goalie adventure for USCHO.
  • John Iadevaia has some words of praise for Curtis Gedig in his review of New Jersey Devils’ prospects for Hockey’s Future.
  • Wondering what it takes to be a college hockey player? The Badgers show you here. (Fortunately for them their hockey skills far exceed their dancing skills.)
  • You can read a transcript of Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves’ pre-series press conference here.

It’s looking like the inaugural Big Ten season is Minnesota’s to lose. It isn’t impossible for the Buckeyes to make a run at the Gophers but it doesn’t seem likely at this point. If Ohio State manages to win three out of their next four games, though, they’ll be right back in the thick of the race for second place and the other first-round conference tournament bye.

B1g STandings W L t sow pts this week
No. 1 Minnesota 7 0 1 0 22 vs. St. Cloud and Minn St/UMD (North Star Cup)
No. 9 Wisconsin 4 2 0 0 12 vs. Ohio State
Michigan State  2 3 2 2 10 vs. Michigan
No. 14 Michigan 3 2 0 0 9 at Michigan State
Ohio State 1 4 1 0 4 at Wisconsin
Penn State 0 6 0 0 0 vs. Boston College

WOMEN

Rookie starClaudia Kepler leads OSU with seven goals

After a fairly successful swing through Minnesota, the Buckeye ladies return home this week to host Minnesota State. The two teams are currently tied with St. Cloud for sixth in the conference standings, but they seem to be headed in opposite directions.

Since the midseason break the Mavericks are 3-5-0, having swept Lindenwood and beat Bemidji State before losing five straight to Bemidji, Minnesota-Duluth, and Minnesota. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are 2-1-3 since the break after a sweep of Penn State and dragging points out of Minnesota and Duluth.

Minnesota State has really struggled to find the back of the net during this slump. They’ve been outscored 17-3 in their last five games. The Mavs aren’t to be taken lightly, though. They’re a very veteran team, solidly backstopped by senior goalie Danielle Butters (3.05 GAA, .917 SV% in 21 games).

Kathleen Rogan (9-8--17), Kari Lundberg (7-9--16), Nicole Germaine (7-9--16), and Lauren Barnes (3-13--16) lead Minnesota State in point production. Kari Schmitt (6-11--17), Ally Tarr (5-12--17). Sara Schmitt (5-12--17), and Danielle Gagne (6-10--16) top the Buckeye charts.

This is a big series for Ohio State. If they can continue their post-break momentum they have a great shot at catching Bemidji State at fifth in the conference standings. A fifth place finish would mean a first round trip to UMD for the WCHA tournament rather than one of the conference’s top-ranked juggernauts.

More pregame linky goodness…

  • Nate Handrahan reviewed the ladies series at Duluth and shared some thoughts about facing Minnesota State this week.
  • If you’re heading out to the Ice Rink this week, be sure to check out the promotional info about Facebook Friday and Social Media Saturday
  • If you can’t make it out to the games this week, Ohio State’s series preview has info on how to follow the games from home.
  • Kari and Sara Schmitt were featured in this article by Allison Ward for the Dispatch. (OSU hockey featured by the Dispatch twice in one week? Elizabeth, I’m comin’ to join ya!)
  • Lisa Steffes and Claudia Kepler’s efforts against Minnesota-Duluth earned them honorable mentions for WCHA defensive player and rookie of the week, respectively.
WCHA Standings W L T SOW Pts This Week
No. 1 Minnesota 16 1 1 0 49 vs. St. Cloud
No. 2 Wisconsin 15 3 2 1 48 vs. Minnesota-Duluth
No. 3 North Dakota 12 4 2 1 39 vs. Bemidji State
Minnestoa-Duluth 9 5 4 3 35 at Wisconsin
Bemidji State 6 11 1 1 20 at North Dakota
Minnesota State  4 16 0 0 12 at Ohio State
Ohio State 2 11 5 1 12 vs. Minnesota State
St. Cloud 3 15 2 1 12 at Minnesota

 

15 Comments

Comments

betiobuckeye's picture

Good stuff thanks! Go Bucks!

betiobuckeye's picture

If any parents are looking for something to do with their kids I really suggest bringing them to the women's hockey game. You only have to pay 1.50/hr for parking and it's a pretty fun atmosphere at the rink, plus the games are very entertaining to watch. 

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Thanks for the kind words and the endorsement for the ladies!

TBDBITLinWIScantSON's picture

I Will be there tonight! The Kohl Center can be an intimidating environment. I'm sure Coach Rohlik will have the guys pumped to play in his old stomping grounds.
Go Bucks!
I do like the added animosity brought on by the B1G teams all competing in the same league now for Hockey.

WB

Dirty419Boy's picture

Nice! Cheer on the Bucks to victory against the stinking badgers.

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Sweet! You can yell real loud for us! 

Go1Bucks's picture

Considering our PP failed against Minnie, I hope they can overcome the lack of offensive production.

"I will pound you and pound you, until you quit." -Woody

Aubrey Nelson's picture

That's definitely an area in which they can improve from last week. Lots of weapons in the Buckeye arsenal though. 

Baroclinicity's picture

Nice shot of the stick flexing on the Kepler wrister!

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Sure is. I was kinda bummed I couldn't find a name to properly credit the photographer. 

Seattle Linga's picture

Aubrey - Nice tag line on the badger hunting pic.

Aubrey Nelson's picture

Ha ha, thanks!

NC_Buckeye's picture

To anyone who watched the game last night -- damnit! These guys were totally in the game until their defense got sloppy. Also another sloppy goal on Tomkins. (That's got to stop. C'mon Matt, make them earn it.)
We have all these really talented juniors on roster this season who basically are on the verge of turning in several big wins against ranked teams. But they just don't have the fire to seal the deal... yet.
I hope Rolik can turn this around by the B1G tournament. I can see these guys blind siding everyone and winning the tourney. Seriously. They just need to start playing with confidence and mental fortitude. Sloppy defense has to go.
How great would it be for Rohlik to get the B1G's automatic bid for the 2014 NCAA tourney?

Aubrey Nelson's picture

A first year auto-bid would be sweet. It only takes, what, three wins to claim the B1G tournament? It is getting frustrating that a handful of bad plays are wasting otherwise good efforts. 

NC_Buckeye's picture

I would say "great" efforts.
And I'm not sure the fans of other B1G schools are even aware of how good the Buckeyes are playing. Which is why I think we can fly under the radar in the Big Ten tournament. The other Big Ten schools are focusing on that handful of bad plays and thinking this squad is a typical bottom-feeding Ohio State squad. Thereby forgetting how tough we played them outside of the dumb mistakes (so far).
If the coaching staff can get them to eliminate the mental mistakes, this team could achieve something we haven't seen in Columbus in a while... a bid to the NCAAs.