Size matters in UW-OSU rematch

first_imgGREGORY DIXON/Herald photoWith the WCHA title already clinched and four more games remaining in the regular season, it would be very easy for the Wisconsin women’s hockey team to coast into the postseason.That’s far from the case, however.UW head coach Mark Johnson knows how important the last two series of the regular season will be in order for his team to head into the postseason strong. With the Badgers (25-1-4) looking for back-to-back national championships, the team can’t afford to get complacent.And step one is getting past WCHA opponent Ohio State this weekend.The Badgers and Buckeyes haven’t met since mid-October when Wisconsin swept Ohio State (16-10-4) on the road. Back then, the game was played on a smaller ice rink–something normally advantageous to Ohio State. However, the home ice didn’t make a difference as Wisconsin prevailed 3-2 both nights.Now, the Buckeyes have to face the Badgers on a regulation-sized rink at the Kohl Center. UW hopes to reap the benefits of the extra space.”The Kohl Center is a lot bigger,” team captain Bobbi-Jo Slusar said. “We just have to move the puck, we’ve got to out-skate them and I think we’ll tire them out, and that’s something we’re going to concentrate on.”Several other factors stack the deck in Wisconsin’s favor as well. The Badgers have a long history of dominance over Ohio State, boasting a 25-3-5 all-time record. Recently, UW has done even better. The last eight games played between the teams have all ended in Wisconsin victories.Offensively, the Badgers cannot be beat. They are averaging more than four goals per game, while the Buckeyes’ offense is averaging a little more than three.Of the top five point scorers in the conference, four of them belong to Wisconsin — Sara Bauer, Meghan Duggan, Meaghan Mikkelson and Jinelle Zaugg have combined for 164 points thus far this season.The only player in the top five who isn’t a Badger is the Buckeyes’ leading scorer Erin Keys, who has 37 points.Bauer, who leads the WCHA with 52 points, was unable to pick up any points last weekend keeping her two points shy of 200 for her career. Once she reaches that milestone, Bauer will become just the seventh player in NCAA history to achieve that feat.Freshman forward Duggan has been spectacular as well. For three straight weeks she has been awarded WCHA rookie of the week, making her the first Badger to win a conference award in three consecutive weeks. In six games over that span, she has scored 4 goals and recorded 11 points. On the year, Duggan has five weekly conference honors, the most in a season for any UW player.And while the Badgers’ offense gets all the recognition, the defense and goaltending has quietly had an incredible season, allowing just one goal per game. Both Wisconsin’s offensive and defensive production are tops in the conference.The numbers put up by the Badgers goaltending duo of Christine Dufour and Jessie Vetter say it all. They have the best goals against average and two of the best save percentages in the conference. Ohio State’s senior goalie Erika Vanderveer has very solid numbers in both categories, as well as three shutouts this season, but pales in comparison.Wisconsin’s special teams have been equally impressive. The power play is converting almost a third of all opportunities, while the penalty kill is stopping more than 92 percent of opposing power plays.Finally, one facet of Wisconsin’s success that hasn’t been touched on this season is its discipline. All season long the Badgers have committed the fewest penalties, giving the opposition few opportunities to score with the man advantage.Going into this series with a 15-game unbeaten streak, advantages in most statistical categories and the confidence they’ve displayed all season long, the Badgers will look to continue their march toward the postseason while Ohio State will be looking to build some momentum going into the playoffs.”Ohio State is playing for home-ice advantage in the playoffs,” Johnson said. “With four games left … they’re battling for that last home-ice position. They’re 10th in the polls, they’re ninth or 10th in the power rankings, so they have a lot to play for. So if we don’t come ready to play, then it’s not going to be a very successful weekend.”last_img

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