Weary Buckeyes next for Gophers women’s hockey

Brett Angel

Ohio State’s women’s hockey coach Jackie Barto could be excused if she was looking past this weekend’s series against Minnesota.

Not because of her team’s next opponent, but because of where the game will be played.

After two games against the Gophers this Friday and Saturday night at Ridder Arena, the Buckeyes will return to Columbus, where they’ve played just one home game in the past two months.

Ohio State (8-16-2, 5-9-2 WCHA) comes to town having played nine of its last 10 games on the road.

But Barto holds no animosity toward the schedule-makers.

“We’ve had a tough travel month,” she said. “But that’s just the way it worked out.”

The Buckeyes have been on the road so often lately that it appears they’ve actually become more comfortable away from the OSU Ice Rink.

Ohio State lost its first seven home contests of the season and has recorded just three of its eight victories in its white home jerseys.

Despite their record, the Buckeyes sit fifth out of seven teams in the conference and remain in contention for a spot in the WCHA Final Five.

“If you can control your own destiny you don’t really have much to gripe about,” Barto said.

The Gophers (20-3-1, 13-2-1) come into the series riding a three-game winning streak after a difficult road stretch of their own.

Minnesota has played just one game at Ridder Arena since getting swept at home by Minnesota-Duluth at the end of November.

“It does seem like a long time since we’ve played at home,” Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson said. “But it’s not that big of a deal to me. To be a successful team you have to be consistent on the road and at home.”

The Buckeyes, who have been on the wrong side of eight one-goal games this year, can only hope to be as competitive against a Minnesota team that outscores its opponents by more than three goals a game.

The Gophers won both meetings against Ohio in Columbus earlier this season by scores of 4-0 and 2-1.

“We’ve got to tend to the defensive side of the puck more and can’t take a lot of penalties,” Barto said.

Ohio State racks up the second-most penalty minutes of any team in the WCHA (14.2 per game).

Stealing a point or two would give Ohio State some momentum heading into its final six games of the season – all at home.

Not to mention making that one last trip from Minneapolis back to Columbus a little bit more tolerable.

Oonincx suspended

Forward Kristy Oonincx has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team, according to a Thursday release.

Darwitz honored – again

Minnesota forward Natalie Darwitz was named the WCHA Rookie of the Week for a record fifth time this season for her performance against Bemidji State.

Darwitz notched seven points in two games against the Beavers, including four goals on just six total shots. The freshman standout now has 52 points this season to lead the team.

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and

welcomes comments at [email protected]