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Ohio State’s women’s hockey hosts Bemidji State in the WCHA Quarterfinals tonight

The winner of the best-of-three series in Columbus will move on to the WCHA Final Faceoff next weekend.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

After winning their first WCHA regular season championship in program history, Ohio State’s women’s hockey team opens up postseason play tonight in Columbus. The Buckeyes host Bemidji State in the WCHA Tournament Quarterfinals, which are a best-of-three series. The puck drops tonight at OSU Ice Rink at 6 p.m., with tomorrow’s game starting at 3 p.m., and if a third game is needed it will also start at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

Last weekend against Wisconsin

Ohio State closed out its regular season schedule with a trip to Madison last weekend to take on Wisconsin. Things looked ugly early for the Buckeyes, as they found themselves trailing 4-0 at the end of the first period. Nadine Muzerall’s team didn’t quit after falling behind early, tallying two goals in the second period to cut the deficit in half. Jennifer Gardiner netted her 19th goal of the season less than two minutes into the period, followed by Emma Maltais scoring her seventh goal of the year with 7:18 left in the second period.

The Buckeyes would get to within a goal just over three minutes into the third period when Brooke Bink recorded her second goal of the campaign. Wisconsin struck back four minutes later to extend their lead to 5-3. Ohio State didn’t let the goal from the Badgers get them down, as Gardiner notched her second goal of the night, this time on the power play, with 7:18 left in regulation. Much like in the second period, Maltais followed up Gardiner’s goal with one of her own at the 17:41 mark to tie the game up, eventually sending the game to overtime.

While Gardiner had a tremendous game for Ohio State, she committed a huge mistake in overtime when she was called for a penalty for handling the puck, which resulted in a penalty shot for Wisconsin. Kristen Simms of the Badgers would convert the penalty shot, snapping a three-game winning streak for Ohio State.

The teams were back on the ice on Sunday afternoon, and after a thrilling game the day before, it took both teams a while to get going. Wisconsin again was first on the board, scoring with just over seven minutes gone in the third period. Emma Maltais responded eight minutes later with her third goal in two games against the Badgers to even up the score.

The action would get really wild in the final minute of the third period, as Madison Bizal scored her third goal of the year with 55 seconds left in regulation, and followed it up with a power-play goal 30 seconds later, securing the first WCHA regular season title in program history. Ohio State left it all on the ice on Sunday, blocking a season-high 29 shots. The Buckeyes finished the regular season with 70 conference points and a 23-4-1 record in WCHA play.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mark Stewart / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The performance by Maltais over the weekend added even more milestones to her outstanding career at Ohio State. With three goals and an assist in the two games against Wisconsin, Maltais reached 200 points for her career, becoming the first Buckeye skater to reach that mark. Maltais is now one of six active players in the NCAA with 200 career points.

This season against Bemidji State

Now Ohio State will host Bemidji State with a trip to the WCHA Final Faceoff on the line. The Buckeyes easily handled the Beavers this season, winning all four matchups. When the teams first met in Minnesota in the middle of October, Ohio State won the first game 4-0, followed by a 5-2 win the next day. Sophie Jaques scored two goals and added an assist, while Raygan Kirk recorded the first shutout of the season for Ohio State goaltenders. Jaques scored two more goals and notched another assist in the win the following day.

The scores were even more lopsided when the teams squared off in Columbus a month later. The Buckeyes outscored the Beavers 12-1 in the two games, winning the first game 5-0, followed by a 7-1 drubbing the next day. Paetyn Levis scored two goals in the first game, while this time it was Amanda Thiele earning the shutout. The following game saw Hadley Hartmetz become the latest two-goal scorer, netting her first two goals on the season in the victory. Sophie Jaques passed Tessa Bonhomme for most points in a career by an Ohio State defenseman in the win.

Ohio State will hope to repeat last year’s performance when they swept St. Cloud State in the quarterfinals before beating Wisconsin and Minnesota in the WCHA Final Faceoff and going on to win the NCAA Championship. If the Buckeyes get by Bemidji State, the WCHA semifinals take place next Friday, followed by the championship game on Saturday.