Boston College Women’s Hockey takes on #3 Ohio State University tonight at 7:00pm EDT for the NCAA quarterfinals. We wanted to get to know BC’s opponent, so we connected with a longtime Ohio State Women’s Hockey supporter to get their perspective on the game. Our friend pgb-ohio, as he’s known on the USCHO forums, is about as knowledgeable as they come from following the Buckeyes’ squad, and he was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
BC Interruption: BC and Ohio State have only faced off once all-time — a 2-0 decision to the Buckeyes in the 2018 NCAA quarterfinals in which Ohio State pretty handily controlled the first two periods of the game before leaning on Kassidy Sauvé in the third. How is this year’s Ohio State team different from that squad?
pgb-ohio: Well, a 3rd Period surge by the talented Eagles squad in that game was to be expected. But yes, Kassidy carried a heavy load during her time with the Buckeyes, and I do recall that being the case in the third period of the first meeting. The current Buckeye ‘D’ Corps function cohesively, and perhaps is a bit deeper than 2018. Of course you can’t really replace a Jincy Dunne. You take the players you do have, and maximize their strengths.
It goes without saying that Andrea Braendli is a fine goalie who is perfectly capable of being the difference maker in any game. But just maybe these Buckeyes don’t have to “lean on her” to quite the same extent the team leaned on Kassidy.
BCI: Is there a different feeling for the Buckeyes coming into this game as a favorite compared to three years ago as a slight underdog? Just speaking as a BC fan, I can tell you my stress level is... well, about the same, honestly, but it’s always at a 12 out of 10 for me for these things regardless of the circumstances.
pgb: Not really. In the college hockey world, BC is a brand name you instantly respect. Playing in NCAA tournament games is never going to get old. And let’s face it, we never get enough East/West match-ups — in any season. Never mind the pandemic.
Now when it comes to putting together challenging non-conference schedules in normal years, Coach Muzzerall does it as well as anyone in the country. We’ve been to nice places before. Regardless, OSU vs. BC is a special match-up, period.
BCI: Blogger and friend of the site TitleIXHockey gave a “Too Brief Characterization” of each team in the field and summarized Ohio State as “Shots not goals.” Diving into the national stats, that looks to be surprisingly accurate. The Buckeyes are 3rd in the country in shot margin, but just 11th in goal margin. We didn’t get much of a chance to watch the western games this year (shout out to FloHockey and their $30 streams) — so how would you characterize the Buckeyes’ game plan? Is it just “shoot whenever possible,” or have teams been successful keeping OSU to the perimeter, or what’s the deal with that?
pgb: I don’t believe we’re trying to emulate the offense employed by the Penn State Men’s Hockey Program. This year’s stats stem largely from the top-heavy nature of the schedule. As just one example, Wisconsin is capable of keeping any opponent on the perimeter. One way to attack that is take shots when available, then crash the net and play for second chances. Maybe the conversion rate suffers, but as long as you score 1 more goal than the other guys, OK.
Also note that the Buckeyes put up nice goal totals against Bemidji & Minnesota State. The finishing skills are there.
BCI: You guys launched Minnesota-Duluth into the sun in the WCHA semifinals. Was that fun?
pgb: That was one night that Daddy never took the T-Bird away.
BCI: You’ve had your share of rough losses this year as well, though, with 4-0 and 5-0 losses early on to Minnesota and Wisconsin respectively. I guess you can throw in the totally bizarre 7-4 loss at the end of January as well, though that game was tied halfway through the third. What happened there?
pgb: I don’t expect to see any games like that in the NCAA tournament, at least involving the Buckeyes. The time-honored two game series often generates odd splits, where one game is close and the other not.
BCI: With COVID locking teams into conference-only schedules, how do you think that might affect the Buckeyes in the postseason? Does it feel more like Ohio State is battle tested, or do 14 games (!!) against Wiconsin, Minnesota, and Minnesota-Duluth start to take their toll?
pgb: Battle-tested? Yes. Fatigued? No. I’ll bet every player on the Buckeye team wishes she had the opportunity to play more games this year.
Before the UMD game, Coach Muzz theorized that the Buckeyes might hit the ice like just-released caged animals. Of course a contrarian might have predicted a rusty start after a three week layoff. Coach knew best.
BCI: It’s Wednesday morning and you’re writing up a “Three Stars Of The Game” on USCHO for this matchup. Who are you writing up, and what’d they do to earn it?
pgb: Emma Maltais, Liz Schepers, and Tatum Skaggs are each terrific hockey players in their own right, and yet the value of the top line exceeds the sum of its parts. They genuinely enjoy playing together. As seniors, they’ve been at it a while. They’re adaptable. Example: Try to keep Emma from scoring goals, and she’ll beat you with assists.
None of these women will be done with hockey after this tournament, but this week will almost certainly be their last chance to play together as a line. I say that they rise to the occasion, and one or more of them earn Stars.
BCI: Last question — give me a quick period-by-period synopsis of how you see this game going down, and what does the scoreboard show at the end of the night?
pgb: Can’t say. [Ed. Note: Booooo!] I haven’t seen BC play one minute of hockey this year, mostly due to the pandemic. Unlike many observers, I never assume that the opposing team’s effort is a constant. So I’ll be fascinated to see the Eagles play, but admit I don’t know what to expect.
I will say this much. The Eagles should expect the Buckeyes to play fast, and to have each other’s backs. They’re a true team, and they’re tough to play against.
Will that work for planting seeds of doubt? Either way, thanks for the opportunity to participate.
Thanks very much to pgb-ohio for taking the time to answer some questions for us as we get to know the Ohio State women’s hockey team! Puck drop for #6 Boston College vs. #3 Ohio State will be at 7:00pm EDT, with a free live stream at NCAA.com showing the game. Be sure to tune in as the Eagles look to advance to their first Frozen Four since 2017!