2017-18 has been a season to remember for the women’s hockey Bucks. They claimed a place among the conference and national leaders early in the year and held their position throughout. They finished the regular season in second place in the WCHA and at No. 6 in the national polls. And, though they were bounced from the conference semis, the Buckeyes made the NCAA tournament as the final at-large selection.
|Opening Faceoff||1pm ET|
|Location||Chestnut Hill, MA|
This is the first time in program history that Ohio State has made the big dance. But, while the tournament appearance is an important milestone for the program, it isn’t the ultimate goal for the Buckeyes. They are three wins from a national title and hoping to bring some hardware back to Columbus. To do so they’ll have to take down the best teams in the country, starting with the super-charged offense of No. 4 Boston College.
Eastern teams are stereotypically smaller, faster, higher-scoring outfits than their Western counterparts. BC upholds that tradition by being the NCAA’s second-highest scoring offense. The Eagles net a ridiculous average of 4.19 goals per game.
|Team Stats||Ohio State||Boston College|
|National Polls||No. 6 / No. 6||No. 4 / No. 4|
|Tournament Seed||N/A||No. 4|
|Avg. Goals For||2.97 (thirteenth in NCAA)||4.19 (second in NCAA)|
|Avg. Goals Against||2.05 (fifteenth in NCAA)||2.00 (eleventh in NCAA)|
|Power Play||16.2% (twenty-first in NCAA)||25.7% (third in NCAA)|
|Penalty Kill||86.6% (thirteenth in NCAA)||84.8% (twentieth in NCAA)|
|Points Leader||Emma Maltais (40)||Daryl Watts (82)|
|Goals Leader||Tatum Skaggs (23)||Daryl Watts (42)|
|Top Goaltender||Kassidy Sauve (1.99/.934)||Katie Burt (1.95/.932)|
Boston College boasts the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 overall scorers in Daryl Watts (42-40--82) and Caitrin Lonergan (30-45--75). Fellow Eagles, Makenna Newkirk (24-37--61) and Toni Ann Miano (18-25--43) rank within the top-13. BC’s high octane offense will obviously present a challenge for the Buckeye defense.
Conditioning, in particular, could be a huge factor because OSU’s d-corps is basically just a four-woman unit. The Eagles are a speedier, more aggressive group than any the Bucks’ blueliners have seen this season. Jincy Dunne, Dani Sadek, Lauren Boyle, and Lisa Bruno have been exceptional this year in spite of their heavy minutes. But quickness permeates BC’s lineup. With the potential for every shift to be a sprint, the energy tanks could be running low by the end of the game.
Which is why it’s a good thing the Bucks’ last line of defense is a top-notch netminder. Redshirt junior Kassidy Sauve hasn’t seen game action since she was injured in the regular season finale. But the goalie told Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch that she has been rehabbing and “is in the process of being cleared” for the NCAA quarterfinal.
At No. 15 overall, Ohio State’s defense will be the second-best Boston College has faced this season. The Eagles squared off against Connecticut’s eighth-ranked D four times this year. They managed a record of just 1-1-2 against the Huskies and UConn bounced them from the Hockey East semifinal.
One element of Connecticut’s success against BC seems to have been a good start. Whether UConn scored first or not, controlling the early pace was key for the Huskies. Great goaltending was another key. Boston College outshot the Huskies in each of their matchups but Connecticut’s netminders never surrendered more than three goals.
And, crucially, UConn managed to bottle up a very potent (25.7%) BC power play. The Huskies’ penalty killers allowed Boston College just four total PPG over those four games. I suspect these three areas - establishing early control, goaltending, and special teams - will also be critical to the Buckeyes’ success or failure.
This has the potential to be a spectacular contest. OSU’s scorers aren’t as prolific as Boston College’s but they are skilled and opportunistic. Kassidy Sauve (if she is indeed ready to go) and BC’s Katie Burt are two of the best goalies in the country. At the end of the day, though, I think the difference in the game, one way or the other, will be the Buckeyes’ workhorse defenders.