Despite high hopes for an improved effort against the high-flying Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team suffered another pair of lopsided losses on Friday and Saturday, losing by a combined score of 18-4.
Puck possession continued to be an area of concern for OSU, which managed only a combined 30 shots against 91 allowed on the weekend and were dominated in the faceoff circle for the second straight weekend. After the game, senior defender Cara Zubko said she is disappointed in the team’s play.
“I really don’t think we challenged this goalie enough. We need to crash the net, our coach always tells us to shoot to score, to have that need and want to score,” Zubko said. “We don’t always have that, sometimes we shoot just to shoot, and we need to work on that. “
On Friday, the Buckeyes scored two goals in the 7-2 loss. Zubko and junior forward Claudia Kepler scored in the opening and closing periods to bridge the gap. Zubko said she feels that her goal was the right combination of effort and system, allowing her to capitalize.
“I didn’t even know who gave me that pass. We had three forwards who were working their butts off and I skated down a little bit, I was right in the slot, saw an open net and I shot,” Zubko said.
On Saturday, OSU fell 11-2, but again scored in the first and third periods off goals from sophomore Julianna Iafallo and Kepler. After four straight losses, the Buckeyes were digging deep for positives from their play, but believe that their games have gotten off to good starts.
“It’s hard to see, but we definitely improved in our first periods. Yesterday, we were in the first period,” junior defender Alexa Ranahan said. “I think it’s just the second periods that are getting to us, not really sure why, it’s something we’re going to have to fix.”
After consecutive losing series to high-powered opponents, the program is going to take a look in the mirror as they prepare for their next series against Minnesota State.
“We’ll continue to move forward, given that we had to face Wisconsin and Minnesota in the first two weekends of (Western Collegiate Hockey Association) play, we have to go back to the drawing board, move forward to next weekend,” assistant coach Joey Olson said.
Early in the season, the team is thinking about now as a time to retool and focus on what makes it successful.
“Obviously our systems are failing us,” Zubko said. “We have to find a reason to play.”
If the series sweep by Wisconsin served as a wakeup call, then the sweep by Minnesota is the opportunity to begin to think more holistically as a program.
“We talked a lot about it in the dressing room, asking ‘Why are we here, what are we playing for?’” Zubko said.
However, after four consecutive major routes, the team has not given up on the goals established at the outset of the season.
“If we want to be where we want to be at the end of the year, the only way we’re going to get there is by working our butts off,” Zubko said.
Getting to where they want to be at the end of the season begins with small victories, including reading between the lines when outscored by 14 goals.
“Minnesota hadn’t been scored on coming in the weekend, so getting a few goals is nice, so we need to just focus on keeping it out of our end,” Olson said. “I thought when we got the puck into their zone and generate some offensive zone chances we did a nice job.”
Small victories are important for a team still working through the developmental aspects that come with substantial turnover in the offseason. New coach Jenny Potter and her skaters are still working on the finer points of their games.
“I think the whole new system that we’re adapting to right now,” Ranahan said. “When you have teams like Minnesota who can capitalize on your mistakes it’s tough. 11-2 is never easy. I think we’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing and get better at it.”
The team will reconvene for practice next week before it drops the puck for two games against Minnesota State. Game 1 starts at 6:07 p.m. on Friday, with Game 2 at 1:07 p.m. on Saturday at the OSU Ice Rink.