Welcoming its new conference foe to the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team will take on Ohio State this weekend in the first-ever series between the two programs.
Wisconsin (13-6-1, 4-2-0 Big Ten) is currently riding a three-game winning streak, including its two latest Big Ten wins at home against Michigan. Though having won nine of its last 10 games — with the only loss coming to Alaska-Anchorage Jan. 3 — UW enters this weekend’s series coming off a bye week and must find a way to reinvigorate the momentum.
“If we had have played last week and we were still on a roll, I’d say we feel pretty good. But we’ve had another bye week. So we have to kind of get that engine rolling again here,” head coach Mike Eaves said during a press conference Monday. “But there’s an extra little step in everybody’s gait right now because of the fact they recognize we’re in the Big Ten, we’re getting into the meat of our season.”
Conversely, the Buckeyes (11-18-1, 1-4-1 Big Ten) will be looking to snatch up a pair of wins after a tough outing on the road in Minnesota, including a close 1-0 loss to the No. 1 Gophers in the Hockey City Classic outdoor game in TCF Stadium and a 4-2 loss in game two after taking a 2-0 lead.
OSU will look to stop a tough Wisconsin offense, led by Michael Mersch who leads the team with 14 goals. The senior forward has been a reliable force on the attack all season long, most recently recording a hat trick in game one against Michigan. Playmaking senior forward Mark Zengerle will also be a key for UW, posting 19 assists this season, tied for ninth-most in the nation.
The Badgers will again be without sophomore forward Nic Kerdiles, who missed the Michigan series after sustaining a shoulder injury in game two against Alaska-Anchorage. Kerdiles ranks fourth on the team in points with 17, off eight goals and nine assists.
The Buckeyes have a few offensive weapons of their own, namely in junior forward Ryan Dzingel, who leads OSU with 13 goals and 15 assists this season including a power play assist against Minnesota. Ohio State boasts the ninth-best power play in the nation, converting more than 22 percent of their opportunities.
Looking ahead, Eaves praised his team for improving on its consistency thus far into the season, something that has become part of their team identity.