Wisconsin hits the road after a pivotal weekend at the Kohl Center, where the Badgers split with the No. 6 Minnesota, proving themselves as serious contenders for the Big Ten crown.
Despite convincing wins against highly ranked opponents including Minnesota and Boston College, the Badgers (11-8-1, 4-2 Big Ten) still have not cracked the Top 20 in the NCAA rankings.
“For us if we want to be in that top elite we know we have to be more consistent in our games,” junior forward Cameron Hughes said, when asked about not being ranked.
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If Wisconsin wants to prove themselves as not only an elite team in the Big Ten, but also the country, this weekend provides the perfect opportunity as they battle No. 8 Ohio State.
OSU features an arguably more explosive offense than Minnesota as the Buckeyes are scoring the nation’s second-most goals per game (4.2) and converting on more than 26 percent of their power-play chances.
“We prepare for every team somewhat differently, you know, it’s kinda similar to Minnesota but mostly we focus on the things we do,” Hughes said, regarding preparation against explosive offenses like Ohio State.
The Buckeyes offense consists of four players with at least 23 points on the season, including the team leader, sophomore forward Mason Jobst, who has 28 points.
OSU is 12-4-6 overall and sits at the fourth spot in the conference with 11 points behind Wisconsin’s 12. The Buckeyes are 3-2-1 in their last six games, but those results are far from an accurate portrayal of their talent.
OSU took down No. 4 Penn State twice in that span and the Buckeyes are eager to make the jump over Wisconsin in the Big Ten this weekend.
The stakes will be high in Columbus, Ohio and then New York Friday as both teams hope to make a push for the top of the conference. With a sweep of the Buckeyes, the Badgers can jump from the No. 3 spot in the Big Ten to a tie at the top.
To do that, the Badgers will rely on their potent offense, which leads the Big Ten with 4.33 goals per conference matchup.
Sophomore captain Luke Kunin led the charge last weekend against Minnesota with three points, and now ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 14 goals.
Aside from the Badgers’ high-powered offense, their play in the defensive zone and in front of the net has improved by leaps and bounds since the start of the season.
“Coach says five work as one, he’s kinda saying stay as a group and staying tight and that’s something we focus on and it’s gotten a lot better,” Hughes said on the team’s defensive growth.
Wisconsin will need solid performances on both ends of the ice if they hope to take down yet another high-flying offense in the Ohio State Buckeyes.