It’s a huge hockey weekend in Columbus. We’ve got a senior salute, a championship celly, a test for a flagging defense, and a playoff battle between two top-notch netminders. Here’s the lowdown.
No. 7 Buckeye Men vs Michigan State
|Opening Faceoff||6:30 p.m. ET||5pm ET|
|Local Radio||1460 AM||1460 AM|
|Online Stream||BTN2Go ($)||BTN Plus ($)|
After struggling for a few weeks to wrap up the regular season Big Ten title, Ohio State finally got the job done last week in Michigan. The Bucks fell in Friday’s contest but battled to a “shootout” win on Saturday. Captain Mason Jobst netted the B1G championship-clinching goal in the 3-on-3 overtime.
This week the Buckeyes close out their regular season schedule with a series against Michigan State. Saturday is celebration day as they salute outgoing seniors Tommy Parran, Brendon Kearney, Mason Jobst, Dakota Joshua, Sean Romeo, Sasha Larocque, John Wiitala, and Freddy Gerard during the pregame. After the game they’ll raise their championship banner.
|Team Stats||Michigan State||Ohio State|
|Records||11-16-5, 7-11-4-2 B1G||19-8-5, 12-6-4-3 B1G|
|National Polls (PWR)||N/A||No. 7 / No. 7 (No. 7)|
|Avg. Goals For / Against||2.97 / 3.50||3.12 / 2.25|
|Power Play / Penalty Kill||23.9 / 75.8%||22.5% / 81.8%|
|Points Leader||Taro Hirose (50)||Mason Jobst (36)|
|Leading Goal Scorer||Patrick Khodorenko (17)||Mason Jobst (17)|
|Top Goaltender||Drew DeRidder (3.12/.910)||Tommy Nappier (3.12/.910)|
“I’m really excited for our guys,” said Steve Rohlik of winning the Big Ten title. “It’s hard to win at this level. To do something that hasn’t been done here in almost 50 years is pretty special. Like I told the guys, their names are etched in the history of OSU hockey forever, so it’s pretty special for our program.”
Looking to spoil this week’s festivities is Michigan State. The Spartans started the second half of season with only three regulation losses in their first 12 games. The team is on a little skid of late,1-3-0 in their last four.
|Big Ten Standings||Pts||Final Series|
|Ohio State||43||vs MSU|
|Minnesota||36||vs ASU (nc)|
|Notre Dame||34||vs PSU|
|Penn State||32||at ND|
|Michigan State||27||at OSU|
Yet, with their high-powered offense the Spartans are a tough out. Their lethal KHL line is only getting stronger as the season winds down. Taro Hirose leads the nation in scoring with 50 points. Michigan State’s power play is cruising at over 30% since the break.
“These are big games for us," Rohlik stressed. "We’re playing a really good hockey team. Big picture things - we have to get back on track, start playing our hockey, our best hockey, here at the end.”
The Spartan scorers could be trouble for the Bucks who have struggled defensively over the last month. This series should provide some answers to whether those late season woes were due to the pressure of clinching or if there is some deeper issue at play for Ohio State.
A good performance for the Bucks this week is about more than just a victorious backdrop for their celebrations. While the regular season championship is an amazing achievement, the first round bye that comes with it is a double-edged sword. Ohio State needs to set things to right now so the team is on solid footing for the B1G semifinal.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey yet,” said Rohlik. “There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.”
Speaking of the Big Ten semifinal, the Bucks host the lowest remaining seed in a single-elimination semi on Sunday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m. at the Schott. Tickets are available now. Should OSU advance, the championship game would take place at the Schott the following Sunday, March 24 at noon.
No. 3 Buckeye Women vs. No. 6 Minnesota State
|Game Info||Friday||Saturday||Sunday (if nec.)|
|Opening Faceoff||6pm ET||3pm ET||3pm ET|
|Online Stream||BTN Plus ($)||BTN Plus ($)||BTN Plus ($)|
Third seed OSU begins its WCHA tournament run by hosting sixth seed MSU this week in a best-of-three series. The Bucks took the teams’ season series, 3-1-0-0. Freshman goalie Andrea Braendli posted two shutouts in the season series. Ohio State’s goal production was output was modest but spread throughout the lineup. The Bucks put 40 or more shots on goal in each contest.
|WCHA Tourney - Round 1 (Best-of-Three)|
|No. 1 Minnesota - Bye|
|No. 7 St. Cloud vs No. 2 Wisconsin|
|No. 6 Minnesota State vs No. 3 Ohio State|
|No. 5 Bemidji State vs No. 4 Minn.-Duluth|
In addition to a favorable track record vs. Minnesota State, the Bucks are 11-5-0 at home this season. They’re also hot, coming off a great series featuring two big shootout wins on the road at No. 1 Wisconsin. Braendli was brilliant in the series, earning national and conference honors for her 92 save effort. Emma Maltais led the offense with a goal, an assist, and two shootout strikes.
Statistically the stars would seem to align nicely for OSU to advance to the WCHA’s Final Faceoff. However MSU would like nothing better than to throw a huge wrench into the works. And the Mavs could do it.
They are only 1-11-4-2 since the midseason break but in their last three outings they have taken Minnesota to overtime and pushed Duluth to back-to-back shootout decisions. Plus sensational rookie goalie Abigail Levy is a great equalizer. In four games against Ohio State this season she recorded 163 saves on 171 shots.
"The hardest thing is to try to finish somebody's season," said Nadine Muzerall. "[The Mavericks] have a fantastic goalie and we lost to them once before. We know that it's not going to be an easy battle."
The Buckeyes can’t take any games for granted this postseason. The prevailing wisdom of the internet says they can still nab an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. They just need to sweep MSU this week and upset Wisconsin in the semis.
I’m not sure I trust the math. Even if it’s right, it still requires there to be no conference tourney upsets. It’d be much safer to lock up a spot with the WCHA’s autobid. But either way, the Bucks’ first step must be past Minnesota State.
Congratulations are in order for a trio of Buckeyes. Sophomore forward Emma Maltais and RS-Jr. defenseman Jincy Dunne were both named First Team All-WCHA. It is the second straight First Team placement for both women. Freshman defender Sophie Jaques earned a well-deserved place on the conference's All-Rookie squad.