Good afternoon, puckheads. We have only one Buckeye hockey game this week but it's a doozy. Ohio State’s women square off against Wisconsin in the WCHA semifinals. If the Bucks can topple the Badgers then they’re off to the conference final and likely in a position to snag an NCAA tournament berth. If they lose, their season is over.
|Opening Faceoff||6pm ET|
|Online Stream||FloHockey ($)|
Nadine Muzerall says her team is well aware of the stakes this week. “We have to remember we got [to the semifinal] for a reason,” stressed the Buckeye coach. “Now we just have to play our hockey and think of it as another game.”
That might be difficult because, according to Lauren Boyle, the Bucks are pretty pumped about the contest. “We’re very excited. High stakes games are the best games. It’s why we play hockey,” declared the senior defenseman. “You have to use that excitement to your advantage. You have to use that to fuel your fire.”
Looking to put an end to Ohio State’s season are the Badgers. They don't face the same season-ending consequences as the Buckeyes. However, they'll be plenty motivated to exact some revenge. OSU prevented Wisconsin from claiming an unprecedented fourth-straight WCHA title by winning a pair of shootouts in Madison in the teams’ regular season finale.
For her part, Boyle is looking forward to the chance to deny the Badgers another crown. “We eliminated them from winning the regular season WCHA [title] and I’d really like to be the ones to eliminate them from winning the tournament as well. “
Muzerall’s keys to victory this week are simple. “We’ve got to play our X’s and O’s,” she said. “Play disciplined and stay out of the box. Play hungry and relentless. And just know that we’re saving it for nothing.”
Buckle up for this one. It should be one hell of a battle. The puck drops at 6pm ET on Saturday. The game can be streamed live with a FloHockey subscription.
Big Ten Tournament Begins
The first round of the B1G tourney gets underway today. In the history of the Big Ten, there has never been a two-time conference tourney winner. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State, and Notre Dame each own one title. Only Ohio State and Michigan State have yet to claim a crown.
As regular season champs, the Bucks won’t begin their conference tourney run until the semifinals but here’s a look at the other matchups. The best-of-three series begin tonight and continue on Saturday and Sunday (if necessary).
No. 7 Michigan State at No. 2 Notre Dame
The Irish are 3-3-0 in their last six outings with up and down scoring and no series sweeps in the second half of the season. Yet they’re still on the right side of the bubble for the NCAA tournament. The Spartans’ offense is dangerous but doesn’t match up well with Notre Dame. MSU is 0-3-1-0 against the Irish this season. On balance, I’d give this series to the angry leprechauns.
No. 6 Michigan at No. 3 Minnesota
The Gophers are the Big Ten’s hottest team. They are 5-1-0 in their last six games which all came against ranked competition (No. 2 OSU, No. 16 ND, and No. 12 ASU). They did not allow more than three goals in any of those outings, outscoring their opponents by a 22-13 margin. The Wolverines aren’t too shabby either. They went 2-3-1 in their final six games with three of their four non-wins extending past regulation. But strong goaltending is needed to stop the surging Gophers and goaltending is not Michigan’s strong suit.
No. 5 Wisconsin at No. 4 Penn State
The Nittany Lions are 3-3-0 in their last six games. Home ice could be the difference for them in this series. PSU has only one home loss since the end of January. However, that one loss was to the Badgers. Wisconsin, though wildly inconsistent down the stretch, went 4-2-0 in its last six outings. The Badgers were 2-1-1-0 against Penn State this season. It’s hard to bet against PSU at Pegula but if there’s a first-round upset brewing, I think it’s in this series.