COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the twelfth time in program history, Ohio State played host to Wisconsin at the OSU Ice Rink. The Badgers had often struggled on the Buckeyes’ surface, the smallest in the WCHA, but always found a way to avoid defeat.
This time was different – the Buckeyes won, 3-1.
“I know we’ve had some close battles here,” said Wisconsin senior captain Carla MacLeod. “They’re a good team, they know their home ice and they use it to their advantage.”
No. 4 Wisconsin (5-1-0, 3-1-0 WCHA) could not complete the sweep Saturday night despite holding a 1-0 lead until midway through the second period. Alternate captain Jeni Creary got OSU (4-2-0, 4-2-0 WCHA) on the board with a power-play goal at 7:49 in the second period. OSU sophomore defenseman Tessa Bonhomme fed Creary a pass from the blue line that was knocked in from the point as the Buckeyes drew even.
“[Creary] always seems to pull through when we need her,” said OSU goaltender Erika Vanderveer.
The decisive goal came at 10:23 of the third period on a backhanded put-in by sophomore defenseman Amber Bowman. The Buckeyes would not relinquish that lead after their second power play goal of the night.
OSU converted on two of four power play opportunities and shut out all five of the Badgers’ chances.
“They were able to capitalize on two power plays and we weren’t able to capitalize on any, so that was probably the difference,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson. “I thought we were in a good position going into the third period tied 1-1, but we weren’t able to take advantage of the opportunities that we had.”
Wisconsin had the Buckeyes on their heels early, preventing any quality shots inside the blue line. The Badgers got on the board first thanks to sophomore center Sara Bauer’s seventh goal of the season. But behind the solid goaltending of Vanderveer, the Buckeyes slowly began to skate with more confidence.
Vanderveer stopped 34 of the 35 shots she faced on the evening, earning star of the game honors in the process. The Buckeyes as a team managed only 21 shots on goal.
“I played my game, I did my job and I just wanted to help the team,” Vanderveer said. “We were down 1-0, but I knew that if I just played my game we’d come back.”
“She played amazing, as usual,” Creary said of the OSU backstopper. “We have a lot of confidence in our goalies, no matter who is in net.”
Wisconsin appeared rattled in the third and began to press as the clock waned. Frustration was evident on the faces of players who skated back to the bench after a shift. When Creary tallied an empty-net goal with 44 seconds remaining, the game was effectively over.
“Obviously we came here hoping to sweep so it’s a disappointment to have lost,” MacLeod said. “They played a great game though, so you have to give a lot of credit to them.”
Wisconsin sophomore goalie Christine Dufour, seeking her third straight shutout, matched Vanderveer for most of the game but was not helped out by her defense. Both goals came on passes that came right through the center of the ice and found the blades of OSU skaters. The Badgers’ penalty kill struggles were reminiscent of last season, in which they finished 17th in the nation on the kill despite allowing the second-fewest goals per game nationally.
With the victory, the Buckeyes sent a message to the rest of the league – watch out when you come to Columbus.
“We’ve been underestimated a lot of times,” Creary said. “Wisconsin’s ranked No. 4, we’re not even ranked and we came out with a 3-1 victory so I think that’s a big step.”