While last weeks series was a great test for the Badgers on home ice, it will be interesting to see how they respond as the team heads to Columbus for a rare Thursday night showdown with the Buckeyes. Both teams will then head to New York City and the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, for game two Saturday night.
While Minnesota is currently ranked 6th in the USCHO.com poll, Ohio State isn’t far behind with a No. 8 overall ranking. Last weekend the Buckeyes waltzed into Penn State, the country’s No. 4 team, and left with a shootout win Friday and a convincing 6-3 win Saturday. Led by Big Ten player of the week Mason Jobst and goalie Christian Frey, the Buckeyes are able to score and score a lot while also keeping the puck out of their own net. With only three NHL draft picks, and none higher than a 5th round pick, it is a little surprising to see their success. What they do so well is play great team defense while scoring up and down the lineup.
For the Badgers to thrive this weekend, it starts and end with goalies Jack Berry and Matt Jurusik. Last weekend the tandem split games and both played up to their capabilities. In college hockey, three is a magic number – if you can keep the other team to three goals or less your chances to win are exponentially increased. Ohio State averages 4.23 goals per game, so this is no small task.
While keeping the puck out of your net is half the fight, the Badgers also need to put the puck in the other net. The best way to do that against a team like Ohio State is to wear them down with speed and skill. In order to do this, Luke Kunin and Grant Besse are going to need a big weekend with bottom six forwards playing tough, physical hockey and chipping in on offense.