(wins 66.0% of games)
The KRACH model has not done a great job of predicting winners in this tournament, but it picks Wisconsin as the likely winner in this one. The goals for and against stats also heavily favor the Badgers. As this tournament has proven, those numbers can go out the window in a hurry once the puck drops.
Keys for Ohio State
Ohio State has only allowed two goals in their two tournament games so far. Freshman goaltender Christian Frey has had a very good tournament. If he continues that trend, and Ohio State can keep the talented Wisconsin forwards off the score sheet, the Buckeyes will have a good chance of earning the tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament (possibly at the expense of Michigan, which will be icing on the cake for the Land-Grant faithful).
The Buckeye defense did a fine job against Minnesota. They kept a team with a quality offense on the perimeter and didn’t allow penetration into the slot. They also played the neutral zone trap almost perfectly, neutralizing Minnesota in the neutral zone. They’ll need to stick to that plan against a Wisconsin team that is stacked with scorers.
Also important for Ohio State is getting their scoring swagger back. Ryan Dzingel, their scoring leader and go-to forward, was mostly a non-factor against Minnesota, and was nowhere to be found against Michigan State. His goal against the Gophers came on a shot that was likely going wide of the net ,but was deflected in by a Gopher defender.
Keys for Wisconsin
Wisconsin will need to play with speed against Ohio State. Though the Buckeyes have played well in their own defensive zone in this tournament, but they’re still vulnerable to a fast, strong forecheck. When OSU gets trapped in its own zone and worn down by a long shift, they struggle to break out or even clear the puck out of the zone. Minnesota almost exposed that weakness a couple of times in the semi-final, but weren’t able to capitalize.
An additional factor in that situation is weekend fatigue; this will be the Buckeye’s third game in three days. They could be especially vulnerable to long shifts in the second period where they’ll need time to cross the red line to change lines.
In conjunction with the forecheck, the Badgers will have to find ways to get open shots onto Frey. The Buckeyes have done a good job lately of clogging up the center of their defensive zone with bodies. The Gophers tried pass around that strategy, but were mostly unsuccessful. The Badgers will likely try to break the clog by skating with the puck more than Minnesota did. If they’re able to create creases with their feet rather than cross ice passes through traffic, they’ll likely be successful.
Of course, Wisconsin will need Joel Rumpel to be on his game, as Ohio State has a knack for scoring goals with sharp shots. They’ll also need their defenders to contain Dzingel and the speedy Nick Shilkey.