Gophers will try to keep Ohio State winless in WCHA play

Brian Deutsch

Unlike the Minnesota football team, the women’s hockey team will head to Columbus this weekend with a full head of steam and a much better chance of leaving with a win.

The sixth-ranked Gophers will take on Ohio State in a pair of Western Collegiate Hockey Association games at the OSU Ice Rink. Both today’s and Saturday’s games are scheduled to start at 7:07 p.m. EST.

“We’ve always had good games against Ohio State,” Minnesota sophomore goalie Brittony Chartier said. “This weekend we want to set the tone ourselves because they’re pumped up. They want to score some points (in the WCHA standings).”

The Buckeyes have found themselves at the bottom of the WCHA, winless in conference play this season after being swept by both No. 1 Wisconsin and St. Cloud State.

“They’ve lost a lot of close games, and I think they’re pretty hungry right now,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. “Every year, Ohio State works really hard, and they play well in their own rink.”

The Ohio State team is led by a solid defensive unit, which may improve last year’s 13-18-5 record.

Three of the Buckeyes’ captains are defensemen. Two of them, senior Amber Bowman and junior Tessa Bonhomme, along with another junior defenseman, Lisa Chesson, lead the team in scoring.

“They are very strong on defense both by shutting teams down and by putting the puck in the net,” junior forward Bobbi Ross said. “I’ve played with and against Tessa Bonhomme, and Amber Bowman has been one of the best defensemen in the WCHA for three years.”

The three defensemen also have helped Ohio State become the best ranked power-play unit in the WCHA.

Four Buckeyes are tied with Wisconsin’s Jinelle Zaugg for most power-play points in the WCHA this season with seven each.

The top-ranked unit, which has converted 12-of-31 opportunities, will put Minnesota’s penalty-kill lines to the test throughout the weekend.

Minnesota (3-2-1 overall, 2-1-1 WCHA) has owned Ohio State (2-4-0, 0-4-0 WCHA) since the two teams began playing in 1999. The Gophers are 26-5-1 against the Buckeyes, but last year wasn’t as lopsided.

In the 2005-06 season, the two teams split four regular-season games in very different fashions.

In Minnesota’s two wins over Ohio State, the Gophers had to rely on their goal-scoring ability to defeat the Buckeyes.

Minnesota was able to beat Ohio State goalie Erika Vanderveer nine times in the first win, including four goals from Ross.

The Gophers added another win later that year by beating the Buckeyes 4-1 on the road.

On the other hand, Ohio State had to rely on a pair of overtime victories to squeeze past the Gophers 2-1 and 3-2.

But Ross and the Gophers aren’t taking the skidding Buckeyes for granted.

“They had a very strong series against Wisconsin, and they’ve lost a couple of one-goal games,” Ross said. “We have to respect them as an opponent.They’re a threat.”