Lots on the Line as Hockey Bucks Face Familiar Foes

By Aubrey Nelson on February 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm
If intense eyeballs count for anything Tanner Fritz is winning this faceoff
Ohio State University photo

Michigan men, Minnesota-Duluth women, there aren't many teams Buckeye fans would rather see defeated than these two. Let's get you set for a weekend of severe dislike.

Men's Hockey

Three months ago the Buckeyes began their inaugural Big Ten campaign against the then-No.3 Wolverines. Michigan and Ohio State had both rolled through their non-conference schedules, but the Wolverines were favored to sweep the series. That's precisely what they did. Despite two heartstopping late game comebacks the Bucks fell just short of victory on both nights.

A lot of hockey has been played since that B1G opener. Ohio State's stock has risen. They've gotten better with each game. Christian Frey has been sensational since joining the team midseason. Their offense remains potent, if not quite as prolific as it was during the non-conference schedule. Buckeye fans expect wins more often than they hope for them now.

Game Times Friday at 6:30 pm Sunday at 1pm
TV BTN SportsTime Ohio
Radio 1460 AM 1460 AM (on delay at 4pm)
Online BTN2Go BTN2Go

Michigan's stock, on the other hand, is slipping. They've dropped down the polls and the B1G standings. At the midseason break the Wolverines looked like a lock for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now they're clinging to an at large bubble bid. 

Defensive struggles have plagued the team throughout the season. The Wolverine blue liners have been inconsistent at best. At their worst they're turnover prone and downright leaky. Freshman Zach Nagelvoort (2.26 GAA, .927 SV%) and sophomore Steve Racine (2.96 GAA, .914) haven't been able to cover the defense corps' mistakes. In their last six games Michigan has allowed 23 goals. 

As if they didn't have enough trouble, the Wolverine defense took a hit last week. Captain and blue line anchor Mac Bennett was injured in the split with Penn State. Although things aren't as bad as originally feared, the upper body injury is expected to keep him out of this week's series.

Last Friday's loss to Penn State may have lit a fire under Michigan. They may tighten up their game and salvage an at large bid by return to the winning ways of October and November. But to do that they're going to have to get by a dangerously improved Ohio State team. Not gonna lie, seeing the Bucks put a pin in the Wolerines' Pairwise bubble would be pretty sweet.

Freshman JT Compher (11-16--27) and sophomore Andrew Copp (13-11--24) lead Michigan in scoring. Buckeye fans should also keep an eye on junior Alex Guptill (9-10--19). Recent struggles aside, he usually has a good game against Ohio State. We could see either or both Wolverine goalies this week. I think they're operating on a "winner keeps the net" policy.

Ohio State's series preview contains a reminder that traffic will be heavy and parking at a premium in the Arena District on Sunday with the Arnold Classic underway at the Convention Center. You'll probably want to get there early which means you'll have plenty of time to hang out at the Scarlet Liners' pregame get-together. See you at R Bar!

Further Reading
  • Alex Szczechura and Nick Schilkey talk about the upcoming series here. Steve Rohlik shares his thoughts in this interview.
  • Grant Miller previewed the series for The Lantern.
  • Jeremy Summitt writes about the Ohio State-Michigan hockey rivalry for The Michigan Daily. (I'm still not sure how much of a hockey specific rivalry it is, but definitely agree that there is "sincere hostility" between the two teams.)
  • Ryan Dzingel and Nick Oddo are the college hockey MVPs of Illinois and Nebraska, respectively, according to College Hockey Inc. (Great Lakes states FTW.)
  • This weekend is Hockey Weekend Across America. As usual, today is Wear Your Jersey Day. Tomorrow is Try Hockey for Free Day. Sunday is for celebrating local hockey heroes.
  • Drew Claussen took a look at Minnesota and Wisconsin's scoring-by-committee approach in this midweek post at USCHO. He also includes a few notes on Ohio State and Michigan.
  • In other local hockey news the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets brought home some serious hardware from the Quebec City Peewee Hockey Tournament last week. (It's sort of like the Little League World Series for hockey.) Kristyn Repke has a recap of their title run here
Conference Outlook

Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the driver's seat for the B1G tournament's first round byes. They're also in good shape for at large bids to the NCAA tourney. Michigan needs a sweep this weekend to keep them in the running for both a B1G bye and an at large NCAA bid.

If the Buckeyes can stay within striking distance of the Wolverines through the next two weeks they may have an advantage in the final series of the season. Ohio State will close out 2013-14 by visiting Penn State while Michigan faces Minnesota. 

Since things are getting kind of tight up in here it would be a good idea to brush up on the Big Ten tiebreaking procedure. (The first one is number of conference wins, which means the Spartans are screwed.)

big ten w l t sow pts this week
No. 2 Minnesota 10 2 2 0 32 vs PSU (Friday at 9pm on BTN)
No. 6 Wisconsin 10 5 1 0 31 Bye
No. 13 Michigan 7 6 1 1 23 vs/at OSU 
Ohio State 5 6 3 2 20 at/vs MCH
Michigan State 3 7 6 4 19 vs US U18 Team (Ex.)
Penn State 2 11 1 0 7 at MIN


Women's Hockey

The lady Bucks face Minnesota-Duluth in first round of the WCHA playoffs for third straight season. The Bulldogs swept the Buckeyes in 2012. Ohio State returned the favor in 2013. That's 18 games played between these two teams in the last three seasons. 

Game Times FRI and SAT at 7pm ET SUN at 7pm ET (if necessary)
TV n/a n/a
Radio 103.3 FM (KUMD) 103.3 FM (KUMD)
Online Video America One ($) America One ($)

The majority of the contests have been close on the scoreboard. They've all been hard fought battles in a war for home ice come playoff time. The majority have been close on the scoreboard.I expect this weekend's series will bring the same kind of intense, physical, tight scoring games.

You probably don't  need a refresher on the principal players this weekend, but I'll give you one anyway. Juniors Jenna McParland (10-21--31) and Zoe Hickel (10-13--23) along with senior Jamie Kenyon (14-13--27) lead the Bulldogs in scoring. Freshman Ashleigh Brykaliuk (11-9--20) is the only player on either team to have recorded more than one goal in the season series. Sophomore Kayla Black (2.35 GAA, .919 SV%) will likely get the call between the pipes. She has shut out Ohio State twice this season.

Senior Ally Tarr (10-20--30) rocketed up the Buckeyes' scoring chart in the second half. She racked up eight goals and ten assists in January and February. Junior Danielle Gagne (10-12--22) is having a career year. So is senior netminder Lisa Steffes (1.84 GAA, .936 SV%). Kari (8-14--22) and Sara Schmitt (7-19--26) are among the highest scoring blue liners in the conference as well as rock solid defenders. 

The series could easily go either way. The Buckeyes have been hot in the second half, though. I think they'll be up to the challenge. The winner of this series advances to the WCHA's Final Faceoff where the tournament switches to a single elimination format.

Further Reading
  • You can check out Ohio State's official series preview here.
  • Ally Tarr was named the WCHA's co-offensive player of the week. Lisa Steffes got an honorable mention for defensive player of the week as well.
  • Tarr's impressive collegiate accomplishments were the focus of this article by Grant Miller for The Lantern. He also talked about the upcoming series with Taylor Kuehl and assistant coach Carson Duggan here.
  • USCHO's Candace Horgan and Arlan Marttila discuss the Buckeyes' series against the Bulldogs in their weekly D-I women's hockey chat. They see the series as "dead even."
Conference Playoff Match Ups
first round (best of three)
No. 8 St. Cloud No. 1 Minnesota
No. 7 Minnesota State No. 2 Wisconsin
No. 6 Bemidji State No. 3 North Dakota
No. 5 Ohio State No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth


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