After a disappointing series sweep on the road against St. Cloud State, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team (5-9-0) is preparing to travel to Vermont for a post-Thanksgiving holiday series against Boston University and Vermont.
The Buckeyes are set to take part in the first-ever Windjammer Classic, a four-team invitational hosted by the Catamounts featuring three regional powers in Cornell, Boston University and Vermont. OSU will be the only team representing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association over the weekend.
“I’m excited,” senior defender Cara Zubko said. “We’ve got lots of parents coming out to see us because it’s a cool place to go visit and it’s going to be fun. We’ve played out of conference before but never a tournament like this where we play two different teams in a weekend, so that’ll be fun.”
On Saturday, OSU is slated to face Vermont for the first time in program history. The Catamounts (3-11) are losers of two straight and will face Cornell after the Buckeyes.
On Sunday, the OSU will complete the series against the Boston University Terriers (10-6-0) winners of four straight and seven of their last nine. They are led by sophomore forward Rebecca Leslie, whose 21 points rank 11th in the nation.
This marks the first time the Buckeyes travel to a Hockey East invitational tournament, and they recognize the special opportunity it represents.
“Our league is a tough one to play in, so we definitely want to see where we compare to other leagues,” junior forward Claudia Kepler said. “We play against the top teams all the time so we want to see where we’re at against the other top teams around.”
Despite the festive nature of the tournament, the team is still focused on improving its play, especially after a self-described “step back” against St. Cloud State last weekend.
“I think as a staff we were pretty disappointed in how they showed up and prepared this past weekend,” coach Jenny Potter said. “No doubt in my mind that they have bought in and are working hard, it’s just the little things that make the biggest difference.”
Potter lamented her team’s focus before last weekend’s series, but she remained optimistic that with another good week of practice it will be more prepared for two tough out-of-conference opponents.
“We have to stay disciplined,” Potter said. “I think our team learned some lessons this past weekend. Sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way.”
Discipline was the main focus at practice early in the week, as the Buckeyes allowed three power-play goals in five chances on Sunday. However, despite taking the most penalties in the WCHA, the team is more concerned with its lack of goal scoring.
“We didn’t execute as well as we could have,” Kepler said. “I think together as a whole we all need to pick it up. There were a lot of chances to knock in some pucks on Saturday. We should have had four or five”
As the team slips further back in the WCHA standings, its skaters are looking at this weekend as an opportunity to turn the page on the next portion of its season.
“I think a couple out-of-conference games this weekend will be a good change-up for us,” Zubko said. “Play some different teams and a different style. Maybe we’ll come back with it figured out a little bit.”
In addition to the program’s lessons learned after a disappointing loss, there is feeling that the short holiday week coupled with a tournament might serve to shake up the team’s mood before its final home series of the calendar year.
“I’m really excited,” Zubko said. “We get to spend Thanksgiving together as a team with our coaches. Probably out of my four years this one of the trips I’m most excited about.”
And the coaching staff is confident that the sweep against St. Cloud served as an adequate lesson in team preparedness.
“I believe that any team you play there’s something to be learned and maybe something to be applauded,” Potter said. “So hopefully we learned our lesson and are ready for the upcoming game.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to drop the puck against Vermont at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Boston University at 1 p.m. on Sunday.