The Ohio State women’s ice hockey team (5-7-0) recorded its first series split of season last weekend against the University of North Dakota. Now, the Buckeyes are preparing to head back on the road to St. Cloud, Minnesota, for a two-game series against St. Cloud State.
Despite dropping three of its last four contests, the team believes it is playing with greater confidence than earlier in the season.
“We’re definitely starting to find our identity a little more. We’ve been putting in a lot of work,” senior forward Kendall Curtis said. “We’re figuring out who we are as a team, and we know we can grind and come back from any deficit.”
Against St. Cloud State (4-7-1), losers of two straight, the Buckeyes have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the teams behind them in the conference. The Huskies enter this weekend one point behind OSU for fifth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
The team’s mantra all season has been to focus on getting better each week independent of whom it plays. However, the Buckeyes recognize that this week is different, as they’re facing the team currently nipping at their heels.
“We haven’t really talked much about St. Cloud, but we know that they have a similar record to us so this is an important weekend to get some points,” freshman forward Maddy Field said.
For Field, who is tied for second on the team in goals scored, her contribution to the team improving has been to help shore up the team’s defense, which has allowed only eight goals in the last six games since allowing 18 goals in two games to Minnesota.
“The coaches have definitely told me to be focusing on my defensive side and that the goals will come after,” Field said.
OSU coach Jenny Potter, who will return to her home state of Minnesota for the first time as a Buckeye this weekend, said she is pleased with her squad’s development at this point of the season before an important series.
“Our team has, in my opinion, improved every week,” Potter said. “Just getting better and better and learning every week from each other and the opponents we play.”
Becoming a threat
Curtis said she believes that the team’s overall improved play is attributed to a better grasp on its team concept.
“Our systems are really coming more for us now, we’re not really focusing on it as much in practice,” Curtis said. “We’re focusing on coming together, taking that next step, not just systems, becoming a team that’s always a threat.”
OSU’s renewed sense of confidence is aided by the time it spends working on its game, not the opponent’s.
“I’m not too worried about other teams,” Potter said. “Obviously we’ve got to know their strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly you’ve got to know your strengths and play your game.”
Their game looks to be continued stalwart defense and stiff competition as the Buckeyes continue to adjust under Potter in her first year as OSU’s coach.
“It’s not good enough to be able to outwork teams anymore. We did a lot of that early this season,” Curtis said. “We were outworking teams, but the outcome wasn’t there and now we’re getting to the point where that’s not quite good enough.”
Potter’s holistic approach to coaching will continue to guide the team as it continues to look to make noise against its remaining conference opponents.
“We’re fortunate that we play in the best league in the country and never get to take an off-weekend,” Potter said.
The Buckeyes are set to drop the puck against the Huskies at 4:07 p.m. on Friday and 2:37 p.m. on Saturday.