The Ohio State Women’s hockey team (9-18-1, 5-16-1) is set to return home over the weekend after two series away from Columbus to face second-ranked Wisconsin (26-1-1, 20-1-1).
OSU is coming off a series split at Minnesota Duluth. The Buckeyes scored nine goals over the weekend, with four of them coming on the power play.
“I think we got a lot out of this past weekend. We made a lot of steps these past three weekends actually,” sophomore defenseman Dani Sadek said. “We were usually scoring one-to-two goals a game, and that isn’t going to win many games.”
Sadek attributed much of the success to the improved offense on the power play.
“(It) has definitely stepped up,” she said.
As it prepares for Wisconsin, the team has focused on building its offensive attack off of strong defense in front of its own net.
“We’re looking to tighten up a little bit are some areas we got beat in the defensive zone last weekend,” assistant coach Joey Olson said. “So just trying to kind of protect the net a little bit better, from the defensive standpoint out, looking to create offense from there.”
Slowing down the Badgers
Wisconsin is first in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in goals allowed per game, surrendering just less than one per contest. On top of that, the Badgers are second in scoring with 111 goals this season.
The Buckeyes are looking to impede Wisconsin’s offensive flow, which it derives from somewhat unconventional play from its defenders.
“We know that their defensemen are very active,” Olson said. “They like to jump up into the offensive zone. So just making sure our wingers are aware of that and making sure that we stick with them.”
The three remaining regular-season opponents for the Buckeyes are all ranked within the nation’s top 10, so the team is trying to sustain some momentum for these tough matchups.
“I think overall we really stepped it up last weekend,” Sadek said. “We have to take that into this weekend because the competition is not getting any easier so every game for the rest of the year is going to be crucial for us.”
Sadek said she believes it’s imperative that the team has confidence amongst itself to combat Wisconsin’s quickness.
“They’re all pretty fast and they’ve got good hands as well, so I think we all need to stick with our man and trust our team that they’re going to do their job,” Sadek said.
The two teams last played on the second weekend of the season. The team believes it has grown significantly since that encounter, which saw OSU lose two games by a combined score of 15-0.
“All of our players have done a great job working hard to improve their conditioning,” Olson said. “(They’ve) improved their knowledge of coach (Jenny) Potter’s systems and just taking giant steps forward. So we should be a different team this time around.”
The last time the teams met in early October was the first conference series of the season. Sadek said she believes the team didn’t have a grasp of Potter and her coaching style when it first played the Badgers.
“I think everyone wasn’t bought in in the beginning of the season to our new coach,” Sadek said. “I think we are all bought into her system now and obviously have been working on our systems the whole year, and I think we are definitely a new team.”
Beyond just a grasp of schematics, Sadek said she feels the individualist mindset some players possessed has gone by the wayside.
“In the beginning of the year we were very individual and we went out there and thought we could do it by ourselves,” she said. “But I think we’ve really grown as a team.”
The puck is set to drop at the OSU Ice Rink at 7:07 p.m. on Friday and 4:07 p.m. on Saturday.