For a record seventh straight season, the Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team has made it to the Frozen Four.
In this year’s Frozen Four, the Badgers take on a familiar WCHA rival — Ohio State. The Buckeyes, entering the tournament with a first round victory against Boston College, are in their second ever Frozen Four.
These WCHA rivals have already met five times this year. They split the four regular season match-ups, followed by the Badgers winning the rubber match in the WCHA championship on a Lacey Eden overtime winner. Ohio State has handed Wisconsin two of their three losses this season and they have appeared to be the only team able to consistently contain the Badgers high-powered offense.
What’s up With the Buckeyes?
The Ohio State Buckeyes had a relatively successful season in the WCHA. Finishing third in the conference with an 11-5 record and making it to the championship game of the WCHA Final Faceoff, where they lost to Wisconsin in overtime. They are paced in scoring by senior forward Tatum Skaggs’ 17 points. Defensively, their top pairing of Madison Bizal and Riley Brengman is one of the best in America. In net, junior Andrea Braendli was named second team WCHA.
Ohio State is an incredibly balanced hockey team. They have nine players with more than nine points on the year and they get solid defense from all three pairs. Most importantly, they are playing their best hockey of the season at the right time.
They won six out of their last seven to end the regular season — including three out of four against Minnesota. On Tuesday afternoon, Ohio State dominated Boston College to make it into the Frozen Four. BC scored early in the first period, but Ohio State scored three straight goals over the last two periods while outshooting the Eagles 43-8 in the process. Their head coach Nadine Muzerall said they played “relentless” and it can be argued it was their best game of the season.
This domination is not exactly something Wisconsin is thrilled about. They struggled with the Buckeyes more than any other team they played this season. As I mentioned earlier, Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the country. Giving up just two goals per game, the Buckeyes are as stingy as it gets anywhere in college hockey. But, good defenses are nothing new to Wisconsin.
On Tuesday, they faced a Providence team also known for their defense. But Wisconsin forechecked hard and made it very difficult for Providence to be able to clear their own zone. They dominated possession, shots on goal and the overall pace of the game which allowed them to beat a solid Providence team.
If the Badgers have any shot, they will need to continue the intense forecheck. They put a lot of pressure on Providence in all areas of the ice. They will need to up the pressure to another level in order to advance to another national championship game.
This will certainly be a test for Wisconsin. They have struggled with Ohio State throughout the year and as they match up for a sixth time, the Buckeyes are playing their best hockey.
But, on Tuesday afternoon, Wisconsin looked like a totally new team. They were faster, stronger on pucks and more physical than Providence. To beat Ohio State for a fourth time, they will need to have a similar intensity. Mark Johnson will certainly have his team ready to go, but it is up to them to get pucks to the back of the net.