When a soon-to-be freshman commits to be a college athlete, there is an expectation of an adjustment period against higher-level competition and in the classroom.
For the five freshmen on the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team, that adjustment came with the added pressure of playing for a different coach than they had committed to just a few months before.
Former OSU coach Nate Handrahan brought the class together, but that connection was thrown for a loop after his resignation in March. A month later, Jenny Potter was named the program’s coach. But rather than struggle with the change, OSU’s newest members have excelled in their first few months as college hockey players.
“When I originally got the call I was scared,” freshman forward Maddy Field said. “When you commit to a coach, he makes you promises, and Jenny Potter had never seen me play before, so I didn’t know if I was going to be playing. But honestly, it’s been the best transition and I couldn’t have asked for a better coach.”
Field, who is tied for second on the team in goals scored with seven, has been one of the standouts of her class in an otherwise difficult season for the rookies and the team. Field has recorded nine points in 18 games this season, compared to 14 for the rest of the class. Additionally, defender Jincy Dunne, the headliner of the recruiting class, has yet to play this season.
With a coach also in her first season at OSU, adapting to a new way of life has been a shared experience from top to bottom.
“I think with a new coach everyone was in the same boat. They’re all new to the systems and I was new to them and they were new to me,” Potter said. “There isn’t really that much of a difference for them other than just acclimating to life as a student-athlete here at OSU.”
For some of the talented rookies, that adaptation has not proven quite as difficult.
Another newcomer having a noteworthy year, defender Lauren Boyle, has surprised with 10 assists so far and earned an increased role in recent weeks, including a start on defense for OSU in one game of its final series of the 2015 calendar year against Minnesota-Duluth alongside sophomore Dani Sadek.
“Being a captain on my high school team last year, I was looked to create a lot of opportunities and plays and I scored a lot of goals last year,” Boyle said. “I’ve never been a goal scorer but having that leadership role of making plays has helped my vision, finding the best opportunity.”
Boyle has the distinction of having played under Potter before, when she coached her in an international youth hockey tournament. But four years later, Boyle said she doesn’t believe that history gave her a special leg-up on the season.
“Coming into this season I didn’t really know how much I was going to play or what role I’d fill,” Boyle said. “I think Jenny has pushed me to locate my role and have expectations for myself, which in the long run will help me grow.”
Potter said she is not surprised to see Boyle make a strong adjustment to the next level.
“She was a great competitor then and she still is now,” Potter said. “She’s grown up a lot, understandably, but she’s been a great player for us so far this season.”
During an otherwise difficult season, the emergence of young talent, especially in Field and Boyle, has pleased the coaches, who are determined to build a competitive program.
“I think they’ve, those two, have done a great job coming in here as freshmen with a new coach, and they’ve stepped up to the plate for sure,” Potter said.
Jincy Dunne, the younger sister of sophomore defender Jessica Dunne, has missed the entire season thus far with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
The freshman, who committed to play for OSU in December 2014, was the final skater to be cut from the U.S. women’s Olympic team for the Sochi games, which would have made her the youngest player to represent her country on the hockey team.
Without Jincy Dunne, the rest of the freshman class has played in all but one game so far in 2015-16, with forward Dana Rasmussen tallying the lone absence in the final weekend before winter break.