The Ohio State women’s hockey team was a model of inconsistency last season. Coming into its season opener against the University of New Hampshire this weekend, the Buckeyes are hoping to ditch the Jekyll and Hyde show and find consistency in their team.
OSU comes off a season where it went 15-17-5, but earned a 9-4-3 record following winter break. The late push gave the Buckeyes a template for success they can build upon this weekend in Columbus.
Given its roster makeup, OSU is in a much different position than it was at the start of last year. The Buckeyes graduated five seniors but retained the majority of their veteran skaters.
“I think that they’re a together group,” said coach Nate Handrahan. “That’s not to say that last year’s group wasn’t, but it just seems that this group has come together a lot quicker.”
OSU returns a large group players from last season, including nine of its top ten point scorers. Their key offensive departure was forward Ally Tarr, who led the Buckeyes with 32 points in 36 games last season.
Defensively, OSU’s biggest loss was Annie Svedin, who logged 134 games over four seasons on the blueline. Buckeye senior defensemen Kari and Sara Schmitt might be forced to help pick up the slack, as the pair combined for 51 points last season.
While the Buckeyes have retained key veteran skaters, it’s a different story in the goal crease. Redshirt-junior goalie Stacy Danczak is the lone returner in her position, and on Thursday, Handrahan announced freshman Kassidy Sauve would be Friday’s starter.
Danczak, Sauve and freshman goalie Alex LaMere each saw a period of action in OSU’s 2-2 exhibition tie against Western Ontario last weekend. Sauve started the game, making seven saves in the first period.
“Everyone played well,” Kari Schmitt said. “It was a good start to the season and we’re ready to go.”
Sauve won a gold medal with Team Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation U-18 Women’s World Championship and comes to OSU following a minor-midget career where she became the first woman to play in the Ontario Hockey League cup.
“She’s got some patience and she’s pretty agile side to side,” Handrahan said. “She’s trying to let shooters make the first move as opposed to her trying to dictate the play.”
Aside from goaltending, the Buckeyes’ minimal roster turnover has put them ahead of schedule in introducing tactics and systems into their play, redshirt-senior defenseman Kara Gust said.
“We can already see it on the ice in our practices,” Gust said. “Our systems are already getting there quicker and I think we’ll have a better start to the season this year than we did last year.”
Positive fitness tests have also been an indication of the Buckeyes preparedness for the season, Handrahan said.
The University of New Hampshire Wildcats welcome seven true freshmen, a new head coach and new assistant coach to their roster this season. Coach Hilary Witt is coming off of a two-year stint as an assistant coach and head scout for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
The Wildcats dropped their season-opener, 2-1, on the road against the University of Maine last weekend.
The puck is set to drop on Friday at 6:07 p.m. and Saturday at 2:07 p.m. at the OSU Ice Rink.