The University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team will finish off their fall chapter of the 2016-17 season this weekend against the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
The Badgers (15-2-1-0, 11-2-1-0 WCHA) have already seen the Buckeyes (8-8-2, 4-8-2 WCHA) once this season, when UW hosted Ohio State in their first home game of the season back in October. That weekend ended with one victory and a draw for Wisconsin, with the win coming in a 3-0 win shootout victory to seal the deal.
Since this meeting, Wisconsin has flourished, continuing to hold on to their No. 1 USCHO.com and USA Today ranking for a grand total of 10 weeks. UW has seen major success, including a productive series against No. 2 and border rival University of Minnesota last weekend.
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On the other hand, Ohio State has been struggling since they last saw Wisconsin, falling to several key Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams. Ohio State has also been poor at home lately, with a 3-4-1 record in Columbus as opposed to a 5-4-1 away record.
The Badgers can also breathe a sigh of relief because for the first time in almost three weeks, Wisconsin will have some sort of consistency in its roster.
At first, it was the temporary absence of junior forward Annie Pankowski to the Four Nations Cup. Along with Pankowski’s departure was the removal of sophomore forward Sam Cogan from the active roster. This would cause Wisconsin’s top line to fall into disarray and lead to some creative new formations from head coach Mark Johnson.
After Pankowski’s return, next in line for Badgers was senior goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens who missed two weeks after suffering what appeared to be a concussion following a collision with a Minnesota player.
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It was against rival Minnesota that Wisconsin would finally reach some semblance of normalcy, but there was still much confusion and chaos surrounding the No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle on the ice last weekend. No one knew for sure if Desbiens would be back in net, and many wondered if she had even returned to full playing ability.
With Desbiens answering critics and a sense of calm finally settling over this team, this weekend proves to be a long time coming for this Badger team. With a series success against Ohio State relying heavily on team chemistry, and the ability of this team to play off one another, Wisconsin is finally in the right position to have a bountiful weekend against the Buckeyes.
The puck drops between these two teams 5 p.m. Friday and then again at 2 p.m. Saturday. A win this weekend would allow a high potential for UW to retain its No. 1 ranking through winter break and into the second half of the season.