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Minnesota Women’s Hockey: #2 Gophers Head to #3 Ohio State

It’s the start of three top three weekends in a row

Kelly Jo Hagenson—Gophersports.com

The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team will hit the road again after a week off at home to regroup. The Gophers who most recently were swept by #1 Wisconsin in Madison will not get any breaks in the near future. This weekend Minnesota heads to Columbus to take on the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes in the first of three consecutive weekends with games against Wisconsin or Ohio State—the #1 and #3 teams in the country with Minnesota square in the middle at #2.

Minnesota looks to regroup after a disasterous weekend in Madison two weeks ago where they were thoroughly outplayed in nearly every part of their game. Wisconsin scored goals at will and frustrated Minnesota on the offensive end. Hopefully with a week off to practice they can regain their form before heading to face the Buckeyes this weekend.

Minnesota and Ohio State split a series at Ridder Arena in November. The Gophers picked up a 4-0 win in the first game before falling 2-1 in the second. That seems to line up with what Ohio State has done with the rest of the top teams in the conference this season. The Buckeyes and Badgers split all four games they have played this season with each team winning a pair.

The games this weekend may come down to the teams goaltenders. Minnesota’s Lauren Bench had some of the best stats in the nation prior to the Wisconsin series but struggled to keep the high powered Badger offense off the scoreboard. On the other side of the ice Ohio State’s Andrea Braendli has been locked in as of late and has not given up more than two goals in a game since facing Wisconsin in November.

On the offensive side of the ice, both teams have shown an ability to showcase a high scoring offense, but have also had games where they have gone into a funk. Minnesota is second in the conference behind Wisconsin averaging 2.82 goals per game. They are getting it spread across their depth as well, with 13 different goal scorers so far this season. Grace Zumwinkle leads the team with eight goals on the season. The Buckeyes also have had games of offensive explosion. They scored ten goals in sweeping Minnesota State last weekend. But the weekend before that in Duluth against the Bulldogs the Buckeyes scored just one goal—yet it was enough to get a split in the series by winning 1-0 the night after dropping a 2-0 game. The Buckeyes have the same scoring depth. Eleven players on their roster have scored a goal and a freshman leads the team in points with 10.

The recent past between these two teams has been fairly evenly matched, but the Buckeyes have had the Gophers number in key games. The two teams split a series in November, but last season after a regular season split Ohio State would take the most important game beating Minnesota in the semi-final of the WCHA Final Faceoff. While this series will not be as critical as even the one the two teams will play in two weeks, it still could have significant WCHA playoff considerations when it comes to the final seeding for the conference tournament in a month. Every game counts the rest of the way for Minnesota, and none of them will be easy.

The two teams will face off at 5PM on Friday and 2PM on Saturday. Both games will stream on BTN+ ($$)