Both the men's and women's hockey Bucks are on the road this week. Both squads face teams puttering around the midsection of their respective conferences. To coin a phrase, ninety percent of the game is half mental this week.
No. 4/5 Men at No. 13/12 Penn State
|Opening Faceoff||7pm ET||3pm ET|
|Local Radio||1460 AM||1460 AM|
|Streaming Video||BTN Plus ($)||BTN Plus ($)|
The Buckeyes are coming off a series split with Michigan. The team is moving in the right direction, finding greater consistency within its games. But the squad is still seeking consistency on a game-to-game and series-to-series basis.
“If you go back to last year, we talked a lot about our team was always consistent, all the way across. This year we’ve been a little bit up and down and that’s something we got to quickly find the answers to,” said head coach Steve Rohlik. “At some point, we’ve got to turn the page and answer that question.”
|Team Stats||Ohio State||Penn State|
|Records||13-5-4, 6-3-3-2 b1G||13-7-2, 5-6-1-1 B1G|
|National Polls (PairWise)||No. 4 / No. 5 (No. 5)||No. 13 / No. 12 (No. 16)|
|Avg. Goals For / Against||3.05 / 2.18||4.86 / 3.68|
|Power Play / Penalty Kill||20.6% / 79.0%||27.8% / 80.5%|
|Points Leader||Mason Jobst (25)||Barratt, Limoges (30)|
|Leading Goal Scorer||Mason Jobst (13)||Evan Barratt (13)|
|Top Goaltender||Tommy Nappier (1.58/.945)||Peyton Jones (3.30/.901)|
The good news is that even operating at a fraction of their peak potential, the Bucks lead the Big Ten with 12 games remaining in the regular season. They are solidly established among the nation’s elite teams, in the top-5 of both polls and the PairWise rankings. Barring a catastrophic collapse, Ohio State will be making a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament this spring.
The bad news is that their position is not as strong as it once was. Two straight weeks of mediocre results have erased the Buckeyes’ gap on the field. They lead the B1G’s second-place team, Minnesota, by only two points. They’ve dropped from a likely No. 1 tournament seed to a No. 2. The Bucks need to find their mojo soon or this cutthroat conference could easily cause the aforementioned collapse.
|Big Ten Standings||Pts||Last Week||This Week|
|No. 4/5 Ohio State||23||Split vs MCH||at PSU|
|RV Minnesota||21||Swept at ND||at MSU|
|RV Michigan||18||Split at OSU||Bye|
|13/12 Penn State||17||Split vs MSU||vs OSU|
|RV Wisconsin||16||L vs US U-18 (ex)||vs ND|
|No. 12/13 Notre Dame||15||Swept by MIN||at WIS|
|Michigan State||13||Split at PSU||vs MIN|
Ohio State needs to look no further than this week’s opponent for an example of how easy it is to fall from grace. Penn State was a top-5 team when the squad skated in its Big Ten opener in mid-November. Now the Nittany Lions are below .500 in the conference. They’ve dropped out of the top-10. If the national tourney started tomorrow it would not include PSU.
Yet Penn State is still a dangerous team. They boast the No. 1 offense in the NCAA and three of the country’s top-10 scorers in Evan Barratt, Alex Limoges, and Brandon Biro. The Nittany Lions are also very protective of home ice. They are 10-4-0 at Pegula Ice Arena this season.
While the Nittany Lions’ scorers are formidable, their defense levels the playing field. PSU ranks No. 55 in goals allowed per game. Early in the season, the team was able to outscore its defensive shortcomings. That is proving much more difficult is the ultra-competitive Big Ten.
For Rohlik the key to victory this week can be summed up in one word: structure. “You’ve got to stay disciplined in what we’re doing,” stressed the Buckeye coach. “We’ve got to be five-man connected defensively. We can’t leave our goalies out to dry. I think if you stick within your structure - and we’ve proven that in the past - if we do those things, that gives us the best rate of success.”
- Tanner Laczynski is one point shy of reaching the century mark. He comes into this week’s series with 99 career points.
- Fan voting for the Hobey Baker Award is now open. You can cast your ballot for either Laczynski or Mason Jobst. (No disrespect to Laczynski, but unless you’re his mom you should be voting for Jobst.)
No. 5 Women at Minnesota-Duluth
|Opening Faceoff||8pm ET||5pm ET|
|Streaming Video||FloHockey ($)||FloHockey ($)|
The Bucks posted their most significant win of the season last week with a shutout of No. 1 Wisconsin. They half-threatened to nab the sweep, remaining in contention until midway through the third period of Saturday’s finale. The results boosted them back into the top-5 in both the national polls as well as the PairWise rankings.
Ten games remain in the regular season including a pair this week at Duluth. The Buckeyes swept the young Bulldogs when the teams clashed in Columbus back in November. Tatum Skaggs (3-1--4), Maddy Field (2-1--3), Emma Maltais (1-2--3), and Jincy Dunne (0-3--3) were all major factors that weekend.
|Team Stats||Ohio State||Minnesota-Duluth|
|Records||15-7-0, 9-5-0-0 WCHA||8-10-2, 5-7-2-2 WCHA|
|National Polls (PairWIse)||No. 5 / No. 5 (No. 5)||N/A (No. 12)|
|Avg. Goals For / Against||2.77 / 2.05||2.40 / 2.65|
|Power Play / Penalty Kill||14.3% / 88.6%||19.3% / 80.8%|
|Points Leader||Emma Maltais (30)||Gabbie Hughes (20)|
|Leading Goal Scorer||Tatum Skaggs (12)||Gabbie Hughes (11)|
|Top Goaltender||Andrea Braendli (1.79/.939)||Maddie Rooney (2.81/.916)|
Minnesota-Duluth is 2-2-0 since the midseason break. As is often the case for a young group, solid defense is a continual struggle. However, the team’s offense is on the upswing. The Bulldogs have recorded 14 total goals in four games since the break. Gabbie Hughes (4-3--7) and Anna Klein (3-3--6) are the team’s biggest contributors in the new year.
Buckeye blueliner Lauren Boyle knows what her team needs to do to shut down the surging UMD offense. “I think we just have to keep our gaps tight, try not to overcommit, and keep bodies in front of us,” said the senior defender. “I think it’ll just come down to being a little gritty, having that extra edge, keeping our game physical and very tight in the D-zone.”
|WCHA Standings||Pts||Last Week||This Week|
|No. 2 Minnesota||34||Swept at MSU||vs WIS|
|No. 1 Wisconsin||30||Split at OSU||at MIN|
|No. 5 Ohio State||27||Split vs WIS||at UMD|
|Minnesota-Duluth||19||Split at BSU||vs OSU|
|Bemidji State||16||Split vs UMD||vs MSU|
|Minnesota State||12||Swept by MIN||at STC, BSU|
|St. Cloud State||6||Bye||vs MSU|
Nadine Muzerall added discipline to Boyle’s list. “We have to stay out of the penalty box,” said the OSU coach. “That’s what killed us last Saturday. We had six penalties against the No. 1 team in the country. That didn’t end well for us.”
“I understood why that happened when we were short on numbers,” conceded Muzerall. “But this weekend we can’t play in the penalty box. Duluth’s a very good team. They have a good power play. We just have to continue to move our feet, stay strong, and do the things that we’ve done to get this far.”